NFL Team Previews: San Francisco 49ers

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NFL Team Previews: San Francisco 49ers
(Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)

Pigskin Heaven's Sascha Bartels is breaking down every single team in the NFL prior to the season. Here is his analysis and forecast for the San Francisco 49ers. Click on a team to read its preview.

AFC East: BUF | MIA | NE | NYJ

AFC North: BAL | CIN | CLE | PIT

AFC South: IND | HOU | JAX | TEN

AFC West: DEN | KAN | OAK | SDG

NFC East: DAL | NYG | PHI | WAS

NFC North: CHI | DET | GBA | MIN

NFC South: ATL | CAR | NOL | TBA

NFC West: ARI | STL | SFO | SEA

 

What’s New?

After taking over for Mike Nolan last season, head coach Mike Singletary is looking forward to his first full year at the franchise helm.

The 49ers were busy when the free agency period opened, landing Brandon Jones, Damon Huard, Demetric Evans and Marvel Smith, among others.  The team also extended tackle Joe Staley for six years, perhaps its most important work.

Everything was going quite swimmingly for the red and gold—then draft weekend came around.  The 49ers had the 10th pick and, after what seemed like another bonehead decision in Oakland, they had the draft's best receiver ripe for the plucking, and pluck they did.

Michael Crabtree is a 49er.  Great news, except it isn’t.  We're less than a week from the season opener, and Crabtree is still unsigned.

The rest of the draft went much better for the 49ers, as they found running back Glen Coffee, quarterback Nate Davis, linebacker Scott McKillop and defensive tackle Ricky Jean-Francois.

Meanwhile, Damon Huard did not make the team and Marvel Smith retired.

Three Burning Questions

Having won the battle, is Shaun Hill the right guy to lead the offense?

Hill is a very smart and capable signal-caller.  While no one will mistake him for Peyton Manning or Tom Brady, he seems more than capable of running a 49ers team that, despite Crabtree's absence, should be pretty good.

Frank Gore and Coffee will lead the ground attack and Vernon Davis looks more motivated this season.  With a solid offensive line and a receiving corps that includes Josh Morgan, Isaac Bruce and Brandon Jones, it’s an offense that should linger somewhere around 15th in the league.

 

What about the defense, is it improved?

While the coaching change made last season merely switched one defensive mind for another, the 49ers would improve if they merely took on the attitude of their coach, one of the best and most feared linebackers to ever play the game.

San Fran ranked a good 13th in defense last season, but giving up 23.8 points-a-game had them 10th-worst.  The team has many pieces in place, not the least of which are linebacker Patrick Willis and corner Nate Clement.

Add to that the likes of Justin Smith, Manny Lawson, Michael Lewis, and the young Kentwan Balmer, and I expect the defense to improve to a top-ten level this year.

 

Will the offensive line allow fewer sacks?

No team has surrendered more sacks over the last two years than the 49ers, so can they change that this season?

Well, I think if they can continuously pound opponents with the ground game, the pass rush will automatically lose effectiveness.  Joe Staley is one of the best tackles in the game and the 49ers pulled a great coup just yesterday by getting Tony Pashos, who will improve the line in a hurry.

With Chilo Rachal, Eric Heitmann and David Baas in the interior, the line should gel into a more cohesive unit.

 

Fantasy Forecast

Good plays:  The only high pick should be Gore, but don't forget Josh Morgan and Vernon Davis.

Avoid:  Shaun Hill is not likely to get you too many fantasy points.

Sleeper:
  Is calling a veteran with a near Hall of Fame worthy resume a sleeper wrong?  Well, I haven’t seen a lot of drafts that have included Bruce, and without Crabtree and a currently questionable Jones, Bruce could just have one more nice season in him.

 

Prognosis

For the prognosis and final record, read the originally posted article here.

This is an original article by Pigskin Heaven Staffer, Sascha Bartels. You can read it, more of Sascha's articles, and more from the Pigskin Heaven staff here.

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