Predicting 49ers' Key Stat Leaders for 2021 NFL SeasonMay 17, 2021
Predicting 49ers' Key Stat Leaders for 2021 NFL Season
The San Francisco 49ers have a new quarterback of the future in rookie Trey Lance. However, there's no guarantee that Lance will beat out incumbent Jimmy Garoppolo or even be an early contributor in 2021.
Still, the 49ers should see statistical improvements in most areas over what we saw in 2020. Players like Garoppolo, tight end George Kittle and pass-rusher Nick Bosa all missed extended time due to injury last season and are expected to be healthy this time around.
The 49ers are going to need some big statistical seasons from their stars too. The NFC West sent two teams to the postseason last year—the Seattle Seahawks and Los Angeles Rams—and it boasts a budding team in the Arizona Cardinals.
Here, we'll examine some of San Francisco's top players and projected statistical leaders for the 2021 season.
QB Jimmy Garoppolo
This is unquestionably the toughest prediction to make. It certainly feels unlikely that Lance will overtake Garoppolo as the 49ers starter before the start of the regular season—San Francisco won't rush the transition.
"It’s going to be very hard for a rookie to come in and beat Jimmy Garoppolo out. He's a very good player," head coach Kyle Shanahan said on ESPN (h/t Pro Football Talk's Michael David Smith). "That's why I like the situation that we are in.
However, Garoppolo has a history of missing time (23 games in three seasons) and will almost certainly cede the job if the 49ers' season goes south. The only way Lance doesn't get a few starts this season is if Garoppolo stays healthy and San Francisco remains on a collision course with the postseason.
That said, Garoppolo probably will see more playing time than Lance and has shown himself to be a statistical standout when healthy. Even in a run-oriented offense in 2019, he passed for 3,978 yards with 27 touchdowns and 13 interceptions.
Expect Garoppolo to play the majority of San Francisco's 17 games in 2021 and to have respectable if not spectacular numbers.
Prediction: 3,212 passing yards, 22 passing touchdowns, 11 interceptions, 42 rushing yards, 2 rushing touchdowns
TE George Kittle
Like Garoppolo, tight end George Kittle was hampered by injuries in 2020. He missed eight games and produced 632 receiving yards and two receiving touchdowns. Presumably, though, he will be healthy for the majority of the 2021 season.
Does this make Kittle a lock to be San Francisco's receiving leader? Not necessarily. The 49ers have a talented wide receiver room that features the likes of Deebo Samuel, Brandon Aiyuk and Mohamed Sanu. Still, those receivers are going to compete for targets, while Kittle should dominate the target share at tight end.
San Francisco's other tight end options include Charlie Woerner and Ross Dwelley.
Aiyuk led the 49ers in both receptions and receiving yards last season, but Kittle only played half the season. If he plays the majority of the 17-game schedule in 2021, the two-time Pro Bowler should return to his place atop the statistical leader board.
Prediction: 92 receptions, 1,334 receiving yard, 7 receiving touchdowns, 22 rushing yards
Edge Nick Bosa
This one feels like an easier prediction to make. Nick Bosa, the 2019 Defensive Rookie of the Year, was dominant in his lone complete NFL season and should be San Francisco's sacks leader in 2021—though his health will play a factor.
Bosa missed 14 games last season after suffering a torn ACL. The good news is that Bosa suffered the injury early in the season and will have close to a full year to recover.
"It sounds like Bosa is going to be ready and expected to contribute mightily for this 49ers team," NFL Media's Ian Rapoport said on NFL Now in April.
If Bosa is at or near 100 percent, he will be San Francisco's most dangerous sack artist. Players like Arik Armstead will contribute, of course, but Bosa proved as a rookie that he can take over games like few pass-rushers in the NFL can.
In 2019, he logged nine sacks and an impressive 45 quarterback pressures. Expect him to have even better numbers this year, according to Pro Football Reference.
Prediction: 12.5 sacks, 48 quarterback pressures, 22 tackles for loss, 54 total tackles, 4 forced fumbles, 1 interception