The San Francisco 49ers made one of the boldest moves of the NFL offseason. They landed their quarterback of the future in former North Dakota State star Trey Lance, and the Kyle Shanahan-John Lynch era will ultimately be judged on whether he succeeds or fails.
Lucky for them, they have built a strong roster around him, and he should be put in position to succeed right from the time he enters the lineup. The Niners have a deep, versatile crew of position players, a strong offensive line, and now that it’s healthy again, a good defense.
As part of our ongoing series here at CBSSports.com, let’s take a look at where the 49ers’ roster stands right now.
Note: Asterisks denote rookies.
At some point in the near future, Trey Lance will permanently pass Jimmy Garoppolo on the depth chart. When you give up two first-round picks to move up from No. 12 to No. 3, that’s the obvious endgame. The bet here is that the 49ers stick to their word of planning to start Garoppolo early on, though, and they insert Lance into the lineup sometime later in the season.
The Niners’ backfield looks a bit different this year, now that Tevin Coleman and Jerick McKinnon have moved on. Raheem Mostert is now the last man standing after Matt Breida was traded last offseason, but Jeff Wilson Jr. should still have a role, and Trey Sermon seems likely to become the team’s lead ball-carrier at some point down the line. San Francisco likes to rotate its backs, so Wayne Gallman could end up seeing some carries as well.
Whoever is under center and receiving handoffs will have the benefit of working behind an excellent offensive line — one which added Alex Mack, who should take the team’s run- and pass-blocking to a new level, given his experience in Kyle Shanahan’s offense.
Meanwhile, Garoppolo and/or Lance will have a strong ecosystem in which to work. Shanahan always puts his quarterbacks in position to succeed, and this group of skill position players is the best in the NFL at creating yards after the catch. Kittle, Samuel, and Aiyuk are all YAC monsters, and each capable of stretching the field vertically as well. If the Niners can get anything out of Hurd, it’ll be a bonus. He’s missed each of his first two NFL seasons with year-ending injuries suffered prior to Week 1.
This defense was decimated by injuries last season. They should be healthier this year, if only because it would be nearly impossible not to be. The return of Bosa means the Niners should again have one of the best defensive lines in the NFL, as he and Armstead form one of the league’s best edge duos, and they’re supported by Ford and Kinlaw, plus some solid depth pieces.
The back seven is not quite as strong as the front four, but that’s no shame. Dre Greenlaw and Fred Warner are monsters at linebacker, and the Samson Ebukam pickup was one of the most underrated signings of the offseason. He’s a prototype SAM linebacker who should work well as an additional pass rusher who can also handle himself against the run and in coverage.
The 49ers might be counting a bit too much on Verrett to replicate last year’s health and performance, but there’s some solid depth in the defensive backfield — even if Richard Sherman and Ahkello Witherspoon are gone and Tarvarius Moore was lost for the season with a minicamp injury suffered earlier this week.
The loss of defensive coordinator Robert Saleh (now the head coach of the New York Jets) thrusts DeMeco Ryans into the top role, and it’ll be interesting to see what — if anything — is different about how his unit looks. Either way, he’s got a lot of talent to work with.