49ers 2016 player predictions

Here’s who I predict will win the following distinctions in 2016. Please leave your predictions as well.

49ers Offensive MVP: RB Carlos Hyde.

Hyde is by far the best skill player on the offense. He’ll win this award if he stays healthy for at least half of the season.

49ers Defensive MVP: LOLB Aaron Lynch.

Lynch is tremendous young talent who played much better at home than on the road the first two seasons of his career. Next season, he will play well anywhere and record at least 10 sacks.

49ers Offensive Rookie of the Year: LG Joshua Garnett.

Garnett will be Hyde’s primary lead blocker and probably will play every single offensive snap as a rookie.

49ers Defensive Rookie of the Year: RDT DeForest Buckner.

Buckner probably will receive high grades from Pro Football Focus as an interior pass-rushing specialist off the bench.

Most Improved Player on the 49ers Offense: TE Blake Bell.

Chip Kelly likes to feature a move tight end in his passing game. Garrett Celek isn’t a move tight end, and Vance McDonald isn’t reliable enough to be featured.

Most Improved Player on the 49ers Defense: LDE Arik Armstead.

Armstead probably will start, unlike last season, and record at least six sacks.

Biggest Disappointment on the 49ers Offense: WR DeAndre Smelter.

I doubt Smelter will play much after spending the past year rehabbing a torn ACL.

Biggest Disappointment on the 49ers Defense: RDE Tank Carradine.

I doubt Carradine will play much even though he lost 20 pounds to try to regain the quickness he lost after tearing his ACL.

Biggest Surprise on the 49ers Offense: SWR Eric Rogers.

Once Bruce Ellington inevitably pulls a muscle, I expect Rogers will become the starting slot receiver and keep the job through the end of the season.

Biggest Surprise on the 49ers Defense: ROLB Ahmad Brooks.

Playing next to Buckner on passing downs will help Brooks immensely. I expect he’ll have his best season since 2013.

Receptions Leader on the 49ers Offense: RB Shaun Draughn.

Head coach Chip Kelly and offensive coordinator Curtis Modkins both like throwing to running backs, and Draughn is the best pass-catching back on the team.

Interceptions Leader on the 49ers Defense: LCB Tramaine Brock.  

Brock should be healthier than last season when he intercepted three passes.

This article has 101 Comments

  1. The addition of Uncle Buck is going to impact more than just Brooks. I expect him to win the starting job and not look back, winning the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year. Rogers would be a surprise, but then again, Chip hand selected him early….

  2. Offensive MVP: RB Carlos Hyde Defensive MVP: LB NaVorro Bowman Offensive Rookie of the Year: RB Kelvin Taylor Defensive Rookie of the Year: DT DeForest Buckner Most Improved Player on the 49ers Offense: Hopefully QB Colin Kaepernick Most Improved Player on the 49ers Defense: LB Eli Harold Biggest Disappointment on the 49ers Offense: TE Vance McDonald Biggest Disappointment on the 49ers Defense: LB Corey Lemonier Biggest Surprise on the 49ers Offense: TE/WR Devon Cajuste Biggest Surprise on the 49ers Defense: CB Dontae Johnson Receptions Leader on 49ers Offense: WR Torrey Smith Interceptions Leader on 49ers Defense: S Eric Reid

    1. Grant ..

      Love your Most Improved Offensive Player ..
      but .. my Most Disappointing Offensive Player(s)
      gotta be Pears and Martin …

      Can’t believe anyone can
      be worse than they are !

    2. How is a RB winning ROTY behind the MVP at the very same position? You expect te rook to get 100+ touches in the season?

  3. Nice ideas.

    I have different thoughts on the following:

    – Biggest Surprise on the 49ers Offense: TE/SWR Busta Anderson. He’s my smokey pick to make the roster and be used in that move TE/ slot WR role.
    – Receptions Leader on the 49ers Offense: WR DeAndre Smelter. He’ll start opposite Smith, and will show pretty well. He’ll take over from Boldin as the go to WR on 3rd downs.
    – Biggest Disappointment on the 49ers Offense: TE Vance McDonald. Won’t even make the team. As you say, Bell will be most improved, and he, Celek, Anderson and Miller will make McDonald expendable.
    – Biggest Disappointment on the 49ers Defense: Tramaine Brock. He’ll get found out playing in O’Neil’s more aggressive D that requires the CBs to play man.
    – Biggest Surprise on the 49ers Defense: Jimmie Ward. Well, a surprise for some anyway. I think he’ll continue to grow this year and will become one of the defensive leaders.
    – Interceptions Leader on the 49ers Defense: Eric Reid. Bounce back year for Reid, and he’ll benefit the most from a more active pass rush.

    1. I hope you’re right about Smelter. Really need him to show up. Busta would be a surprise, but very pleasant….

    2. Very interesting, especially the comment about Brock. You don’t think O’Neill will use Brock similarly to the way he used Haden?

      1. Brock’s not Haden. Aren’t you the one who says we don’t have a #1 corner. He could try I suppose.

      2. I think he will try and use Brock like he used Haden. Therein lies the problem. Brock isn’t that good.

        1. He is good, just can’t stay healthy. That’s the problem.
          When asked to play man to man, he was decent. The scheme used by Mangious left the corners out to dry.

          1. So will O’Neil’s.

            I’m not as big a fan of Brock as you are. I think he’s a pretty average starting CB. He can be serviceable in a system that gives him help and lets him play what is in front of him (like Fangio’s), but O’Neil’s system will leave him 1-on-1 a fair bit, often against the opponent’s best WR.

    3. Scooter “Biggest Surprise on the 49ers Defense: Jimmie Ward” is a great spot. He could have a breakout year, and last season was sort of a breakout year.

  4. Having watched a lot of Eric Rogers, he really isn’t suited as a slot WR. He’s better outside the numbers.

    1. At the cost of repeating myself I thought that same thing about Grant’s putting him in the slot rather than on the outside. Smelter or the rookie from Michigan State looks to be a better fit inside. Smelter really doesn’t have much practice running routes in college. He could be dissappointing.

        1. Everyone is a slot WR in the CFL! Have you seen the field?
          The point is in the NFL with his length and catch radius and breakaway speed, he’s better suited outside the numbers.

            1. Again why does everyone think Kelly will employ the same offense as he did in Philly?
              The 49ers are built nothing like the Eagles. In fact their personnel is night and day in comparison.
              For Kelly to succeed in the NFL in his 2nd chance he will have to show he is able to adapt a system to the personnel. Not the other way around!

              1. Coaches have tendencies. I think Kelly is smart enough to evolve. He won’t invent a whole new offense but he’ll make changes. I think too much is made of how the 49ers are built vs. other teams. What’s the gigantic difference between the two? Coaches get players to fit into their schemes. And great coaches adjust their schemes to their players. I think there’s merit to what you’re saying with some of Kelly’s hirings like Modkins. I look forward to seeing what it looks like.

              2. If the Baylor Bears can transform their spread offense into a running attack for their bowl game due to multiple QB injuries and rack up 645 rushing yards in a bowl win then Chip Kelly can adapt his spread offense to the 49er personnel. I’d love nothing more than to see Chip line the 49ers up in a Double Wing and run a wedge play to start the year. That would be awesome.

        2. I’ve watched a lot of CFL since the 80’s,season ticket holder for 10 years. Playing slot in the CFL is nothing like playing slot in the NFL. No chance he can play slot in the big league. Much better suited on the outside. Have you ever seen him play?

  5. Grant, thanks for the well thought out list.

    Garnett will miss much of camp due to NFL restrictions forbidding practice until finals are over. I read somewhere much of the teaching is done early. Once the season is underway most of the practice is concentrated on installation. This (could) delay Garnett’s development a little. Long term I’m excited about Garnett.

  6. Offensive MVP-Carlos Hyde. Health is the concern with him. IF he plays a 16 game schedule he will get 1500 yards and 12 tds. He is a special talent.
    Defensive MVP-Aaron Lynch. Lynch has had zero help the last 2 years. Now that the D line will take some pressure off I expect 12 sacks. He is big time.
    Biggest Offensive Disappointment-Q Patton. I believe he gets surpassed by Smelter as others suggest. Eventually gets cut.
    Biggest Offensive Surprise-Marcus Martin wins the starting center job and plays well. At 22 years old he begins to flash his potential.
    Biggest Defensive disappointment-A Brooks. A player known to get in and out of condition cause of work ethic gets benched for good.
    Biggest Defensive surprise-Eli Harold. This kid needed to gain muscle in the off season. Gaining 20 pounds in one off season is insane. Harold takes over for Brooks and never looks back.

    1. White was never drafted. He was signed as an undrafted free agent. Quite frankly was not impressive.

    1. Oh, sorry, that was a list of players with torn ACLs. Obviously, it’s a career-defining injury: but to say it’s a career-ending injury is simply false.

      If Von Miller had torn his ACL at the same time (relatively speaking) that Brandon Thomas did, he would have been the biggest draft steal in the last 5 years had he slipped, even if only into the 2nd round.

      1. Most players don’t return to pre-injury form after an ACL tear. And even in they do return to pre-injury form, how long can they remain there? Players have very bad odds to achieve meaningful, long-term recovery. So why would a team draft a player fresh off an ACL tear? How often has that worked out in the history of the NFL? The only success I can think of is Willis McGahee. Todd Gurley is another success, although we don’t know how long his surgically reconstructed knee will hold up.

        1. Grant,

          Just for a moment, consider the following: Von Miller was the main reason DEN won the Super Bowl, objectively speaking (MVP), as well as by anyone who saw him shred opponents throughout the playoffs. He suffered his ACL injury and also gave DEN its glory before ever signing a 2nd contract. Now they look ridiculous if they DON’T pay him $20M per year. Most successful teams in today’s NFL would probably prefer NOT to pay a salary of that size to any player but the QB. You could therefore argue that teams only want the first 4-5 years from the vast majority of their players.

          Baalke has failed to draft superstars, irrespective of whether an ACL injury has occurred. Just look at the list above, then scour the list of other players who’ve been injured. The superstars mostly overcome the challenge, while the average guys fail to do so. I think a player’s level of success following an ACL reflects his fortitude. Simply put, an average player will return less, if at all. A superstar will return the same, if not better. Baalke simply hasn’t figured out yet what makes superstars tick, and therefore has failed to draft them.

  7. Thanks for mentioning Blake Bell. Last year he was a rookie trying to adjust to the NFL *and* learning a new position. I like the way he carries himself, think he could be primed for a big sophomore season jump. Also like the flea flicker potential with this former QB.

    Not expecting much from Rogers. NFL is not CFL. Last time he tried the NFL, he wasn’t even offered a practice squad spot.

    If El Guapo stays healthy, we ride!

    1. What about Warren Moon/ Doug Flutie? There’s others. No doubt, tho, that the talent in NFL is better, deeper.

  8. Why is SEA a presumptive playoff team when the engine of their “dynasty” is retired? Marshawn Lynch has been touted as a supreme RB over the last 5 seasons and when they went away from him in the SB, they lost.

    Is the SEA system just that good? Who do they have left over from the SB-winning team that gives anybody the confidence to favor them? Who’s going to pressure the QB?

    1. The Seahawks were 7-3 without Lynch last season. Cliff Avril, Michael Bennett and Frank Clark will pressure the QB.

      1. But the hags are not bringing in great, new talent to the extent they were some years ago. Still formidable, I know, but I think they have peaked and are now, very slowly, regressing.
        As currently configured, I cant see them running on 9ers as they have in the past. Lynch WAS a big part of that…………

  9. Something to think about:

    Eli Harold (in 2015): 6031, 247, 1.56 10-yard split, 35-inch vert, 33-inch arms, 24 bench reps, 4.16 shuttle, 7.07 3-cone.

    Bruce Irvin (in 2012): 6030, 2.45, 1.58-10-yard split, 33 1/2-inch vert, 33 3/8-inch arms, 23 bench reps, 4.03 shuttle, 6.70 3-cone.

    1. If Eli Harold can become a Bruce Irvin, we could have the best dline in the NFL by the bye week.
      *Pending D-FO, Brooks and Lynch, and Armsteads ability to stuff the run and get teams in 3rd and long.

      1. Bruce Irvin is the most overhyped player in seattle last year he hit his carreer average of 5.5 sacks… There were only 55 players that totaled more sacks. He totaled the same production as guys like Za’Darius Smith, Shaquil Barrett, Armonty Bryant, Jamie Collins, and Thomas Davis… I certainly hope Eli can produce up to that level by his 4th year.

        1. If Eli could produce 5.5 sacks a year it would be an improvement off the bench. Didn’t Lynch and Brooks each have 6 last year. We’re pretty lame right now with hopes of improving the interior pass rush.

  10. I don’t think the 49ers really have to wait for the bye week to have the best defensive line.

    I think they have it now.

    The problem is every other position is substandard so it probably won’t show up in the stats.

    1. Not really, it’s the story of just about every successful back up QB. The good ones continue to excel even without the clean pocket.

      1. You’re really missing his point. Look closer at the numbers. He didn’t become a more accurate passer he simply took advantage of having a cleaner pocket to work from.

    2. Thats interesting… according to the better rivals podcast he was much better under pressure than from a clean pocket. Completing over 64 percent of his passes when under pressure.

        1. Knowing Baalke, if he did take one early it probably would have been Lee, Richardson or Latimer… one of the few early WRs from that draft that haven’t done anything.

            1. Wasn’t a huge fan (always wary of those guys that are really late risers on draft boards in the last few weeks before the draft), but he’s unfortunate to be stuck behind some good WRs. Not had a lot of opportunities to show if he’s any good.

            2. I should clarify, I liked him as a mid round prospect. But once he started getting hype as a potential late 1st/ early 2nd WR I wasn’t as keen.

            3. That’s not exactly how I remember the discussions at the time but doesn’t really matter. He’s a disappointment so far no matter what round he was taken.

  11. I look for Smelter and Burbridge to open eyes in TC. Smelter is strong and has enough speed and size to win some one on one match ups.

    Aaron Burbridge is a ball magnet. He does his best when going up in a crowd. Some have looked at his small hands as a flaw but small hands will only effect his ability to grab the pass if he is a one hand catch artist ala Beckham and a few others. Burbridge makes up for his small hands by contorting his body to give himself a wider radius at catching.

    I like Patton, but his game has not elevated much during his time here. If Patton does not show any significant improvement in TC his snaps will decrease and the other perimeter WR’s will quickly begin to gain ground and perhaps even overpass him.

  12. 49er Offensive MVP- Kaep because Chip is a genius, and easily fixes his problems.

    49er Defensive MVP- Bowman, hands down. He is the best player on the team.

    Most improved Offensive player- Ellington, They finally lets White or Cajuste handle the ST, and he emerges as a playmaker.

    Most improved Defensive player- Corey Lemonier. He finally gets in a system that he will thrive in.

    Biggest offensive disappointment.- Vance Macdonald. Too many drops.

    Biggest defensive disappointment.- Tank. Just does not work out, and Blair out competes him for playing time.

    Biggest surprise on offense- Kaep is back to his old self.

    Biggest surprise on defense- Dontae Johnson gets a starting job.

    Most receptions- Bruce Ellington. Should go to a WR, but think Torrey will not get too many targets while Ellington will draw single coverage.

    Most interceptions- Dontae Johnson, because he will be on the field a lot.

  13. Offensive MVP: RB Carlos Hyde. If he can’t stay in one piece, I’m guessing Torrey Smith or Joe Staley.

    Defensive MVP: Aaron Lynch. Ward will give him a run for his money. Dial is also a consideration. Bethea was voted by the team 2014 MVP. If he’s healthy, spry and still a 49er he could be a surprise candidate.

    Offensive ROY: True Rookie Smelter. Kelvin Taylor is a consideration because his pro ready vision and decision making.

    Defensive ROY: DeForest Buckner. Blair could challenge as a nickle pressure specialist.

    Most Improved Player on Offense: Blake Bell. Torry Smith if the QBs bother throwing him the ball.

    Most Improved Player on Defense: Arik Armstead. Ward will challenge.

    Biggest Disappointment Offense: Hyde or Ellington if they keep getting hurt. Martin and Thomas if they get cut.

    If its Smelter, I won’t be surprised (though I have hopes for him). People forget he’s a true rookie. A “traits” draft pick that didn’t see a high volume of passes on college. I see him slowly being folded into the offense like Armstead last year in the D. If he sticks, 2017 will be his breakout season.

    Biggest Surprise on Offense: Torrey Smith. KaerperBlain has a 117 rating throwing his way in 2015. Kelly won’t let QBs overlook him this year.

    Interceptions Leader on the 49ers Defense: Jimmy Ward. He’s a film study maniac that will bare fruit this season. Surprise pick – Bethea. One of the two will benefit from O’Neil’s aggressive defense.

  14. It would be nice if your predictions play out minus the Draughn take which is not happening.. Hope you’re closer with this one than you were with your disastrous mock draft..

  15. Am I the only who thinks this team is in decent shape? I see a defense that should be twice as good last year. Our O line should be better. I could only wonder how good our QB can be with an Offense Minded coach.
    I perdict 8-8 or 9-7.

    1. I’m with you Larry but I also thought the same thing last year. I think coaching will be a huge factor in getting 8-9 wins.

      1. Thinks Prime.

        I just see Kelly even though with the tough schedule that we have on a yearly basis being able to win 3 games more than last by sure coaching.

    2. Nah Larry, there are a few of us who see a spread of options for this team. I think at the top end we’re an 8-8 team. A few missed field goals and we’re 5-11. We have a really tough schedule too. People go so over hyped last year around this time they over looked a lot of factors about JT’s coaching staff. People were so disenchanted with JH they failed to see JT can’t coach at the head coach level. We were hearing NFCG and all kinds of over selling. I prefer to step away from the hype.

      I don’t think our defense is that much better because we still have mostly the same players. Twice as good is a stretch. I do believe we’ll be better in lots of ways. I think we added some options to help the OL out. I think the offense could be a lot better than 13.6 points a game.

      1. I just think we have a chance to be very competitive. I think Seahawks will come to Earth this year and I believe that Arizona will win the division. I also think kelly will surprise Seattle, Arizona, LA and take a game. They will be looking for our same old traits from the last four years.

        1. Larry, the Niners have improved, but the other teams have also improved. Niners have no players to spend 50 mil in cap space, but the other teams have spent 50 mil more than the Niners.

          That, coupled with the fact that the Niners have the hardest schedule, make the challenge to improve very daunting. They also have a new HC, the same GM, and Jed York.

        2. That’s optimistic. I think both the Carndinals and the Hawks will bring their offensive game plan for us. We should be more competitive which I will enjoy. I think Kelly’s offense will be much better.

  16. 49ers Offensive MVP: RB Carlos Hyde.

    If the Niners are to have a successful season, or even an 8-8 season, Hyde is the engine by which our offense needs to run.

    49ers Defensive MVP: ILB NaVarro Bowman.

    The heart and soul of our team, he is the most VALUABLE. I think Lynch, Armstead, and Ward will all have good seasons. These three, with Bowman, will be the face of the defense; how they go, so goes our defense.

    49ers Offensive Rookie of the Year: LG Joshua Garnett.

    But I think Smelter and Rogers will both contribute, and will be starting at Flanker and Slot.

    49ers Defensive Rookie of the Year: RDT DeForest Buckner.

    Most Improved Player on the 49ers Offense: QB Colin Kaepernick

    As much as I think he should have been traded and I think he is not the future for this team, reports so far are that the coaches are impressed with him and that he is working diligently. I think he improves enough that he will be a NFL starter again someday, whether with us or someone else (most likely with someone else).

    Most Improved Player on the 49ers Defense: ILB Gerald Hodges

    When the trade happened last year, I liked the pick up. I think a full season with the team, and with Bowman, makes him better and the undisputed starter next to Bowman. I didn’t choose Armstead or Ward because I, unlike others, already think they will do well, and so I would not be surprised to see improvement given that I believe it is their natural progression at work.

    Biggest Disappointment on the 49ers Offense: WRs Bruce Ellington and Quinton Patton

    I think at least one, if not both, will not make the 53 man roster. Ellington might make it as a returner, but I think he falls to 5th on the depth chart as a receiver (behind Smith, Smelter, Rogers, and White).

    Biggest Disappointment on the 49ers Defense: Tank Carradine

    I think our starting linebackers will be Lynch, Hodges, Bowman, and Harold, with Brooks possibly being cut. But after that, I don’t see Carradine being the first contributor off the bench at OLB; in fact, I actually prefer Jason Fanaika over him (better pass coverage skills).

    Biggest Surprise on the 49ers Offense: Our offensive line.

    I see a better offensive line than last season. I believe Brown will continue to grow as a RT, especially given his current physical shape, and I think Kilgore will provide a steady influence in the center after recovering from his ailments. I believe Garnett and Staley will be the driving “strength” of the line, and Beadles will play better in the zone-blocking scheme.

    Biggest Surprise on the 49ers Defense: Eli Harold and Jimmie Ward

    I believe both Harold and Ward will take big steps forward this season with Harold starting over Brooks (if we keep Brooks), and Ward holding down the slot corner as well as Jeremy Lane will for Seattle.

    Receptions Leader on the 49ers Offense: TE Garrett Celek

    Whether it’s Gabbert or Kaepernick, both have a comfort level with him. I think he starts over McDonald, and I think Bell and Anderson make McDonald obsolete sooner rather than later.

    Interceptions Leader on the 49ers Defense: CB Jimmie Ward

    1. To be clear, I don’t think other offensive players will be “most improved” because I already think pretty highly of them (Rogers, Smelter, Anderson, White, Trent Brown).

  17. Offensive MVP Blaine Gabbert..
    I’m telling y’all he’s going to thrive in his second year here behind Kelly!

    Defensive MVP Navarro Bowman.
    1 year healthier and will have more help up front this year.

    Most improved I agree with Grant Blake Bell(Dozer) out of OU!!

    Biggest suprise on the defense Tank Carradine… I think he finally comes through this year.
    Biggest disappointment… Joe Staley…. I’m noticing Father Time (in the football world) catching up with him.

    Biggest disappointment on defense… Aaron Lynch. I think he’s a flash in the pan.

    Rookie MVP on offense. Nobody!

    Rookie MVP on defense Buckner

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