SANTA CLARA — Privately, the 49ers feel they’re an elite team.
They believe they have the talent and depth to beat any team they play for the first time since Kyle Shanahan and John Lynch joined the organization in 2017. This belief is why they drafted a punter in the fourth round this year. They felt other rookies would struggle to make their final roster because it’s vastly improved.
Anything less than a playoff appearance would be a major disappointment for the 49ers.
And yet, despite all the talent and depth they have acquired since 2017, their success next season may depend on just four key starters coming off catastrophic leg injuries: running back Jerick McKinnon (torn ACL), cornerback Jason Verrett (torn Achilles), linebacker Kwon Alexander, (torn ACL) and quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo (torn ACL).
The 49ers need all four of them to compete at the highest level. Here are the questions each player faces heading into training camp: