Preseason has come and gone. The roster has been set. All that’s left for the 49ers is to focus on the season ahead which will kick off next Sunday against the Detroit Lions. With the entire NFL in the middle of a three-day weekend, now is the perfect time to make some bold predictions. Here are my five-player predictions for 2021.
1. Trey Lance will throw more passes as a rookie than Patrick Mahomes.
This prediction might not be that bold. As a rookie in 2017, Mahomes only had 35 pass attempts all of them coming during the final week of the season. In fact, that was the only game Mahomes played in during that season.
According to 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan, Lance is going to be playing this season. The only question around Lance is how those snaps will come; Will he be rotating in and out, or will be he starting?
My prediction for Lance is that he will get somewhere in the neighborhood of 75 pass attempts even if he is used primarily as a change of pace quarterback.
2. Nick Bosa will record a double-digit sack total for the first time in his career.
Bosa is working his way back from a season-ending injury for the second time in three years. Sandwiched between playing only three games during his last season at Ohio State in 2018 and playing only two games with the 49ers in 2020, Bosa had a terrific rookie season which saw him record nine sacks on the way to being named NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year.
The 49ers took it very slowly with Bosa during training camp, but when he finally was a full participant, he looked every bit like the player from 2019. He dominated during one-on-one pass-rushing drills with the offensive linemen and then beat Trent Williams for a sack of Jimmy Garoppolo on his first pass-rushing attempt during the team period.
With Dee Ford returning and the addition of Samson Ebukam, Bosa should be able to have a career year.
3. Talanoa Hufanga will start a game before Trey Lance.
The rookie safety from USC has been impressive this summer. Hufanga’s versatility allowed him to make two preseason starts at free safety with a start at strong safety sandwiched in between.
It’s highly likely that Hufanga will start multiple games this season. Neither of the 49ers starting safeties is known for their health. Starting free safety Jimmie Ward hasn’t played a full season since 2015, and starting strong safety Jaquiski Tartt has averaged only nine games per season since 2017.
4. Javon Kinlaw will be held to three sacks or less.
After trading away future All-Pro DeForest Buckner to the Indianapolis Colts, the 49ers chose Kinlaw to be his replacement with the 14th selection in the 2020 NFL draft. Kinlaw underwhelmed as a rookie, recording only 1.5 sacks and four hits on the quarterback.
Unlike Buckner, Kinlaw isn’t a refined pass rusher. He generally just bull rushes into the chest of the defender and then watches the quarterback try and get in the throwing lane to knock the ball down.
The hope for Kinlaw was that a full offseason would allow for more practice time than he received during the Covid shortened 2020. That never materialized. Kinlaw showed up for camp with swelling in his knee, and never took part in the one-on-one pass-rush drills. That lack of reps was part of why Kinlaw played the entire first half of the final preseason game, although you had to look hard to realize that he was on the field because he was never around the quarterback.
5. Fred Warner will win defensive player of the year.
Warner has consistently improved over his first three seasons as a 49er, and in 2020 he was named to the Pro Bowl and was a First-Team All-Pro. Aaron Rodgers of the Green Bay Packers even said that Warner was possibly the best middle linebacker in the game.
New 49ers defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans is a former linebacker who spent the last four seasons coaching the position in San Francisco. Ryan’s aggressive approach will allow his prize pupil to shine in 2021. With more opportunities to blitz and be in man coverage, Warner should put up numbers that will garner the recognition necessary to be named the top defensive player in the NFL.
Let’s hear your predictions in the comments below.