49ers starters: Offense
Ultimately, the biggest key for San Francisco heading into 2022 will be the maturation and development of its top pick from last year’s draft, quarterback Trey Lance.
Lance might not have to be dominant his first year as a starter, but he’ll have to be good enough. Fortunately for him, the 49ers have already set up an offense with plenty of skill players to support and take pressure off him.
Nothing surprising here. The Niners are moving on from Jimmy Garoppolo to pave the way for the No. 3 overall pick from last year’s draft.
Lance got two starts last year, going 1-1 there, but his strong arm and athletic abilities will open up new doors for head coach Kyle Shanahan.
49ers running back
Halfback: Elijah Mitchell
Fullback: Kyle Juszczyk
San Francisco could entertain the idea of bringing back soon-to-be 30-year-old running back Raheem Mostert on a cheap one-year deal in 2022. But doing so after he missed all but one game last season because of a knee injury carries a lot of risks.
And the 49ers appear to have Mostert’s replacement anyway, 2021 rookie Elijah Mitchell, who rushed for a rookie franchise-record 963 yards over just 11 games last season.
While the Niners may want to beef up the depth behind Mitchell this offseason, it sure looks as if he’ll be the primary option on the ground.
49ers wide receivers
No surprises here either, as San Francisco should feel comfortable atop its wide receiver depth chart with Brandon Aiyuk and 2021 first-team All-Pro Deebo Samuel.
Samuel’s 1,770 all-purpose yards last season, third best in the NFL, helped define his new “wide back” position, although it might be wise for the 49ers to limit his exposure to guard against unnecessary risk injuries.
Still, he’s now the team’s most prolific offensive player.
The Niners could afford to explore reserve options and may seek to upgrade the slot over Jauan Jennings, but the duo of Aiyuk and Samuel is just fine entering 2022.
49ers tight end
Again, no surprises here. George Kittle remains one of the league’s best at tight end. And while he might not have been quite as prolific in terms of receiving yards last season, catching 71 passes for 910 yards and six touchdowns over 14 games played, there’s no questioning his importance to the offense overall.
San Francisco will likely want to find a quality No. 2 tight end to pair with Kittle this offseason, but he nevertheless remains one of the biggest offensive commodities Shanahan and Lance have at their disposal.
49ers offensive line
Left tackle: Trent Williams
Left guard: Aaron Banks
Center: Alex Mack
Right guard: Daniel Brunskill
Right tackle: Mike McGlinchey
Definitely, a few question marks here.
The 49ers would love to re-sign stalwart left guard Laken Tomlinson this offseason. Coming off his first Pro Bowl campaign in 2021, though, a weak interior-line market in free agency could ultimately push Tomlinson well out of the Niners’ price range, and it wouldn’t be overly shocking if the 30-year-old Tomlinson finally cashes in on his first lucrative contract elsewhere.
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If that’s the case, San Francisco might have to go with its second-round pick from a year ago, Aaron Banks, as a contingency plan.
Banks, who saw only five offensive snaps last season, spent almost the entirety of his collegiate career at Notre Dame at left guard, and this might be a case where the 49ers were planning on saving Banks for 2022 as a Tomlinson replacement anyway.
It’d be much cheaper to do so.
Starting Daniel Brunskill at right guard isn’t necessarily ideal, and it wouldn’t be shocking to see the Niners look to the middle rounds of the NFL Draft to find a possible replacement.
As far as Week 1 starters go, though, look for Brunskill to be the favorite right now.
What are your predictions for San Francisco’s starting lineup in 2022? Drop your thoughts into the comments section below.