SF 49ers roster: Identifying needs in 2021 for each position
By Peter Panacy
SF 49ers Offensive Needs
While the SF 49ers defense managed to hold its own despite injuries, the same can’t exactly be said of the offense, which finished 2020 ranked No. 21 overall in scoring and 20th in Football Outsiders’ DVOA metric.
One could make the argument fans and the rest of the NFL still haven’t truly seen what Kyle Shanahan’s offense in San Francisco could accomplish if fully loaded and healthy.
Offensive Line: Left Tackle, Center, Interior Depth
Will Trent Williams, one of the league’s best offensive tackles, walk in free agency this offseason? He has to be one of the SF 49ers’ top re-sign candidates. But if he asks for a contract in the range of $18 million annually, it might be too much for the Niners to afford.
Similarly, Weston Richburg missed all of 2020 with a knee injury suffered the previous year, and that ultimately led to a revolving door at center between Ben Garland, Hroniss Grasu and the intended right guard, Daniel Brunskill.
The end result there wasn’t good at all.
Brunskill might be fine to stay at guard where he’s a more natural fit. But finding a starting-caliber center should be high on San Francisco’s wish list.
Good thing the 2021 NFL Draft is awfully deep with offensive linemen.
San Francisco 49ers
Tight End: Someone to Pair with George Kittle
Last offseason, the SF 49ers made efforts to grab a tight end to help out George Kittle, finally settling on Charlie Woerner and Jordan Reed with a mixed bag of results.
Reed is likely gone as a free agent in 2021, and it wouldn’t be shocking at all to see the Niners resume their search for a No. 2 option and upgrade over the current backup, Ross Dwelley.
Wide Receiver: Help in the Slot, Depth
Early in 2020, San Francisco was hurting at wide receiver when both Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk were out with injuries. And even when both were healthy, they rarely got on the field with each other.
Expect that to change in 2021 when both players return fully healthy. But with the SF 49ers likely to lose Trent Taylor and Kendrick Bourne to free agency, an extra body is going to be needed in the slot.
It’s likely Shanahan’s offense goes with a big body here, too, not unlike what he did with Mohamed Sanu back with the Atlanta Falcons in 2016.
Running Back: A Fullback, a Bell-Cow Halfback, Depth
Kyle Juszczyk could also price himself out of San Francisco’s comfort range, which would be a huge free agency blow considering just how much he does for the offense. There simply aren’t too many other fullbacks quite like him.
The SF 49ers will retain runners like Raheem Mostert, Jeff Wilson Jr. and JaMycal Hasty in 2021, and the rotation here looks solid. Except when one considers all three suffered significant injuries over the course of the year.
None of those rushers may be considered true RB1 candidates, and it wouldn’t be out of the realm of possibility for Shanahan and running backs coach Bobby Turner to explore the idea of adding a true bell cow-type running back this offseason.
Quarterback: Replacement for Jimmy Garoppolo, Depth
The $64 question this offseason is whether or not the Niners move on from Jimmy Garoppolo. If so, that becomes a top priority either by way of a trade, free agency or a high-profile name in the NFL Draft.
If not, San Francisco at least has to understand Jimm G’s recent reputation with injuries and the fact Nick Mullens and C.J. Beathard are both free agents. Even if either one of those two re-sign with the SF 49ers, it would be beneficial to find someone with some starting-caliber prowess.
Unless the Niners are comfortable with the kind of results they had in the wake of Garoppolo’s injury in the second half of 2020.