A 49er wins player of the year: 5 bold predictions for 2021

San Francisco 49ers defensive tackle Javon Kinlaw warms up at NFL football training camp in Santa Clara, Calif., Wednesday, July 28, 2021. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

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.

This article has 16 Comments

  1. Kinlaws value is he is a monster run stopper. If Warner wins defensive player of the year it will partially on the back of Kinlaw. Kinlaw will keep 2 O linemen busy on runs giving Warner a free shot at RB’s. With the great pass rushers this team possesses all Kinlaw has to do is be the great run stopper he is giving the pass rushers lots of 2nd and 3rd and long situations. I keep saying it, if this D stays healthy they will be better than 2019. imho

  2. I’m on board with all of the predictions except Kinlaw. Let’s not judge the guy based on last season alone. With the absence of Ford and Bosa Olines were most likely adjusting to Kinlaw and Amstead. Furthermore , I have a feeling Kocurek will be able to coach-him-up .

    Some additional predictions:
    1. 49ers break the record for most jet sweeps in a single season.
    2. Deebo , Aiyuk and Kittle all surpass 1,000 total receive/rush yards combined.
    3. Ford and Bosa exceed 30 sacks combined.
    4. 49ers lose in the NFC Championship game to the Packers.

      1. I agree with old Coach. They are 2 different players. Kinlaw is a better run stopper and Defo is the better pass rusher. You have to look at the total picture and we now have good pass rushers and Kinlaw was drafted for his run stopping abilities.

        1. It’s a passing league. The 49ers were doing good enough stopping the run to succeed in this pass happy league. Pass rush is where it’s at to beat Rodgers, Brady, Mahomes, etc.

          Nobody cares about the top flight running backs in the league. They don’t scare defenses anymore. The only one who does happens to be a quarterback and never runs inside (Lamar Jackson). Of course he still hasn’t yet learned the NFL legalized the forward pass over 100 years ago.

          Lynch grabbed Kinlaw because he had the raw power and skill set necessary to become an inside menace putting pressure on the passer. It hasn’t worked out that way at all. There’s still time for him, but he’s now effectively missed two training camps in a row (the first not of his own doing).

          It’s unfair to expect him to become Defo, but I don’t see him striking any of that fear that guys like Defo and Aaron Donald do into the minds of offensive coordinators.

          It is what it is. Hopefully he’s a serviceable starter for a long time. Don’t hold out any hope he’s this monster he was predicted to be when we drafted him. In order for a player to be great, they often show short glimpses early on. Then the consistency kicks in over time as they learn the speed and intricacies of the game. We’ve seen nothing from Kinlaw of the sort to suggest there’s a demon lurking inside. In fact he got regularly pushed around by backup lineman in the preseason game. Which is odd because he has this raw power and size you can’t teach. The last thing I expected was guys on the chopping block shoving him backwards or sideways at the point of attack.

          I’m not totally giving up on him however. I’m just tempering my expectations from the projections we got from the experts and Lynch on draft day.

    1. Extra Bonus Prediction

      5. The Conventional Wisdom all summer has been our secondary is our weakest position group. This is not the case however. This group will be surprisingly effective and the rookies will step up and make a significant contribution. They are collectively a much stronger unit than the Cards and seahawks.

      Mike Clay @MikeClayNFL Seahawks CB situation: D.J. Reed, Tre Flowers, Marquise Blair, Sidney Jones, Tre Brown , Ugochukwu Amadi

      Mike Clay @MikeClayNFL Sep 2 Cardinals CB situation: Byron Murphy (2019 2nd) , Robert Alford (did not play in 19-20) , Marco Wilson (Rd 4 rookie) , Tay Gowan (Rd 6 rookie) , Luq Barcoo (’20 UDFA)

  3. 2 to 1 ratio points scored/points allowed.

    Set franchise season rushing record though no individual will rush for more than 800 yards.

    Division winner.

  4. Jimmy will play the best of his career till midseason when he gets injured trying to run the ball.
    TL will start losing games with his turnovers and people will beg for JG to get back.
    D will smother opponents and get the team to the playoffs.
    Hasty and Mosterts will set records for yardage.
    3 TDs on kickoff returns
    Sherfield will score most TDs

    1. I like your predictions except aboutTL. I think learns he learns to calm down and put some touch on his shorter throws. He should watch some tape of Joe throwing.

      1. Yes I’m preparing for the worst and hoping for the best with TL.
        Learning to put touch on a throw takes time and actually is also something that can not be taught but rather has to be developed further when you have the aptitude for it. That’s the difference between good and great QBs.
        I hope the kid is successful, I just don’t see it happen this season.

      1. 4 targets. 3 receptions for 53 yards for Sherfield. All receptions result in 1st downs.

        For the season, TS will lead the WR group in receiving yards. I’m sensing a little bit of the famous Shanahan doghouse for Aiyuk and Debo will be in and out of the lineup all year with nagging injuries.

  5. $100 for anyone who can guess (without looking) who didn’t practice today. Nah, never mind…. too easy.

    If you answered “Jalen Hurd,” give yourself a pat on the back!

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