By: Zach Owen
A string of major injuries coupled with some less than stellar play led to a pretty disappointing year for San Francisco, especially coming off a Super Bowl run in 2019. They still have a solid defense, with young stars like Nick Bosa and Fred Warner, but their offense needs to figure some things out. Fortunately, after trading up to the third pick, SF is primed to take a top-tier rookie QB (though who it will be though is a topic for another article). In addition to a new shiny QB though, they’re going to need some other offensive players to take a step up. Let’s take a look at some players SF should be hopeful about in 2021.
Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk
Deebo Samuel was one of the players taken out with injuries in 2020. In the games he played though, he was a player you wanted to get the ball to. He had 401 YAC in just 33 receptions which is an insane 12.1 YAC/rec. This was the first out of all players with at least 20 receptions in 2020 (with second coming in at 10.1 YAC/rec). If that doesn’t convince you how much of a YAC monster he was, how about the fact that he had more YAC (401) than he did total receiving yards (391)? Basically, Samuel is a real playmaker with the ball in his hands, no question about it. The injuries (including a foot fracture that required surgery) could definitely have an impact but if Samuel comes back healthy, he will be a difference-maker for SF.
Now Aiyuk had a couple of minor injuries last year as well but only ever missed one game at a time from them. With George Kittle and Samuel missing multiple games, Aiyuk stepped up and became the #1 that SF needed. During weeks where Kittle and Samuel were out and Aiyuk played (weeks 10, 14, and 15) Aiyuk’s per-game averages were 14.3 targets, 8.6 receptions, and 89 yards. It’s a very very small sample size but a 14.3 target average would have put him 1st overall in 2020 with 2nd place being Stefon Diggs at 10.4. He’s got a bit of work to do on his efficiency with 6.2 yards per target and 60% catch rate during those three games but he was just a rookie (during the COVID season) and showed he has the skills to be a big player when needed.
SF is going to have a scary receiving corps over the next few years with Kittle, Samuel, and Aiyuk primed and ready to ball out. Whichever QB they draft at #3 is going to be set up to succeed right out of the gate.
Jeff Wilson and Wayne Gallman
On the other side of the offense, it looks like SF is set up to go with an RB by committee approach again in 2021. They have three RBs that all have performed reasonably well when given the opportunity but none of them really scream lead RB. Both Wilson and Gallman came in for an injured lead back last year and actually performed pretty well. Wilson had multiple 100+ rushing yard weeks and Gallman had a five-game streak where he averaged over 80 yards per game (which would have put him 4th overall last year in yards per game).
Mostert did start off hot in Weeks 1 and 2 but got injured and never really got back to full form. He does seem to have the highest receiving ceiling of the three so I expect him to play a decent amount. He is 29 though so, in addition to his injuries, I expect him to lose his top spot to either Wilson or Gallman. Naming either of those two as a “breakout candidate” would probably be exaggerating a bit but I do expect one, or both, of these guys to take a step up from last year. Regardless, SF is set up with a pretty solid RB committee which should be more than enough considering their stout defense and really exciting receiving group.