3 reasons San Francisco 49ers miss playoffs in 2020

Jimmy Garoppolo, San Francisco 49ers. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Jimmy Garoppolo, San Francisco 49ers. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images) /
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DeForest Buckner, 49ers
DeForest Buckner #99 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images) /

49ers defensive line may experience a downgrade this year

One of the Niners’ biggest strengths this past season was their star-studded defensive line. The positional group struck fear in the eyes of opposing teams’ quarterbacks on a weekly basis and was considered the best defensive front in the NFL.

Unfortunately with the breakout season of defensive tackle Arik Armstead, came the trade of star tackle DeForest Buckner to the Indianapolis Colts for the 13th overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft.

This hurt a lot of fans as Buckner was widely considered a fan favorite, though his price would have made re-signing superstar tight end George Kittle much more difficult than it already seems to be. The Niners decided to sign Armstead to an extension and use the pick grabbed from the Colts on a South Carolina defensive tackle, Javon Kinlaw.

Some did not love the moves made by the Niners, but ultimately it was the smart decision as cap flexibility is everything in the NFL.

Although this was a logical move, Buckner was a staple in the 49ers defense, and replacing him with a rookie may not work out as well as everyone hopes. Although I do believe Kinlaw will become a great NFL talent with experience, I do not think it will happen instantly following a less than ideal offseason that will limit his ability to become quickly acclimated with the 49ers defensive scheme and upper-echelon NFL talent.

Asking a rookie to make an instant impact is unrealistic.

The Buckner trade also puts a lot of pressure on Armstead. Armstead came into the 2019 season with nine total sacks in four NFL seasons, which is why some feel it was a bit of a knee-jerk decision to pay him like a top-five defensive tackle following just one elite season. This payday will be a storyline throughout the 2020 season if Armstead fails to replicate last season’s numbers.

Teams may fear this defensive front a little less knowing Buckner is out of the equation if Armstead is not able to fill the void left by his longtime teammate. A downgrade in defensive line power can prove to be fatal to the Niners’ chances of making the playoffs in a highly competitive NFC.