As teams start the preparation for the 2021 NFL season the San Francisco 49ers have plenty of decisions to make when it comes to their starters. 49ers key position battles could be an interesting watch.
We all know what happened before the draft with the huge trade that San Francisco made and the player they acquired. That is your first key position battle. Quarterback is the most important position on the team and San Francisco has a decision to make.
Outwith the quarterback addition, the 49ers also made gains in the running nack room. They currently sit with six on the roster and as much as they love play action and running the ball it is unlikely that all six make the final roster.
Playing in the NFC West means that the 49ers will be competing against some of the best squads in the league. The Los Angeles Rams and their great defense upgraded their offense with the addition of Matthew Stafford and are now a more complete team. This is a team that made the playoffs last year despite poor quarterback play at times.
In that division as well are the Arizona Cardinals and the Seattle Seahawks. Seattle wasn’t able to do much in the draft, due to the lack of picks, but they still have one of the best quarterbacks in the league and one of the best wide receivers. Last year their defense started slow but by the end of the season, they became one of the top five defenses in the league.
Finally the Arizona Cardinals. J.J. Watt, A.J Green, and James Conner all now find themselves playing in Arizona as they look to take advantage of a rookie quarterback deal. After a poor 8-8 season that had glimpses of greatness, the Cardinals will be all in making a run at the Super Bowl in 2021.
Needless to say, the 49ers key position battles are vitally important.
2021 49ers Key Position Battles
QB | Jimmy Garoppolo vs Trey Lance
So the most important position in all of football is up for grabs in San Francisco. To be honest it really shouldn’t be. Jimmy Garappolo led this team to the Super Bowl in 2019 and due to injuries in 2020 he missed a lot of the season. This is still the quarterback who was one game away from his third Super Bowl and the quarterback who can run Kyle Shannahan’s offense like no other.
In 2021, not only will be Jimmy Garoppolo be back from injury but he will have his teammates back as well. None more so than George Kittle and Deebo Samuel. In 2019, everyone was singing the praises of Garappolo and now all of a sudden it’s time to move on. As a 49er he has gone 22-8 as a starter. That’s pretty good going and yet apparently it was time for the San Francisco 49ers to give up a huge amount to get a new quarterback.
That being said, Trey Lance could be a truly great quarterback. In college, he only had one full year as a quarterback and he threw for 2947 yards and 28 touchdowns. Even more impressively the North Dakota State quarterback didn’t throw any interceptions at all.
Needless to say, it will be interesting to see who starts in week one but with a proven quarterback in Jimmy Garoppolo, the 49ers might be better giving the veteran his chance and see if he can rekindle some of his 2019 form. That way Trey Lance gets more time to learn the offense and can develop into an NFL quarterback despite only having one full year of college football under his belt.
RB | Jeff Wilson vs Wayne Gallman vs JaMycal Hasty vs Trey Sermon vs Elijah Mitchell
Raheem Mostert is going to be the first running back on the team sheet, but who will be his backup? The OTA’s are the first chance for these five running backs to compete for what will likely be three spots.
As the OTA’S progress the rookies, Trey Sermon and Elijah Mitchell, will have a chance to showcase their skills, speed, and agility in padless practices. Wilson and Gallman have been in the league for a while now and Kyle Shannahan will be well aware of how they like to play and what their strengths and weaknesses are. The rookies are the wildcard here.
If Sermon and Mitchell can come in and impress quickly then there is no reason why they can’t be considered the number two and three running backs ahead. It will take a lot to impress Shannahan and they will need to come to terms with the play-action style of play very quickly.
After the injury to Saquon Barkley in 2020, Gallman saw his role in the Giants backfield get bigger, He finished the year with 682 yards and six scores. A decent output as he was averaging 4.6 yards per carry. It was by far his best year since he joined the NFL. As for Hasty, the 24-year-old didn’t exactly excel in his rookie year as he only featured in eight games and totaled 148 yards and one score. With Wilson likely to take the number two spot it will be up to the other four to compete for some playing time in 2021.
WR | Mohammed Sanu vs Jauan Jennings vs Travis Benjamin vs River Cracraft vs Richie James vs Jalen Hurd
So finally for the 49ers, a key position to keep an eye on is the wide receiver room. Currently, San Francisco is inundated with wide receivers and will have to cut down the wide receiver room.
Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk are stapled on one and two, but after that things get a bit murky. Mohamed Sanu joined the 49ers late in 202 and did pretty much nothing. He played in 3 games, had one target and one catch for nine yards. The veteran receiver has played for four teams in two years and may find himself at a fifth team before the 2021 season starts.
2020 rookie Jauan Jennings didn’t play in 2020 but could find himself competing for a spot if he can impress in preseason. Richie James saw his share go up in 2020 as he started in seven games for the 49ers. The 25-year-old is aiming to play in his fourth season for the 49ers and will have to do well at the OTA’s. In 2020 he only managed 394 yards from 23 receptions. Not exactly great numbers.
Just like Jauan Jennings, the 49ers also have Jalen Hurd who hasn’t featured in an actual NFL game. Then they have River Cracraft, who has played in nine games as a 49er, Trent Sherfield who has just joined from Arizona, and Kevin White who was a 49er in 2020 but didn’t have a single pass thrown his way.
The most likely number three will be Travis Benjamin. Heading into his ninth year in the league, Benjamin has been a solid performer throughout his career. He has totaled 3143 yards and 19 touchdowns. A solid performer behind Samuel and Aiyuk is what the 49ers need whilst the rest of the receiving room compete for snaps.
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