3 Players the 49ers Should Target to Make a Push in the NFC West
The San Francisco 49ers are off to a 2-2 start, and in the rugged NFC West, that can put any team behind the eight-ball pretty quickly.
On its face, a 2-2 start isn't the worst thing in the world. After all, seven of the league's 32 teams have the same record. But in the NFC West, it sets up a little different sense of urgency.
While the .500 record is good enough for the Tennessee Titans to have an early lead in the AFC South, it has Kyle Shanahan's team tied for last with the Seattle Seahawks in the brutal NFC West. Things could get significantly worse if the team doesn't find a way to step it up against the undefeated Arizona Cardinals.
According to NFL" target="_blank">DraftKings Sportsbook, the Niners will be 5.5-point underdogs on the road against Kyler Murray and Co. on Sunday.
With the need to keep up with the rest of the NFC West being paramount, the pressure is on to get the best roster on the field. That could mean turning to the trade block or free agency to provide some depth, upgrade at a position or simply find a fill-in to deal with the team's many injuries.
Here are three who should be targeted by the 49ers right now.
CB Cameron Dantzler
The Cameron Dantzler experience in Minnesota has been an odd one. The second-year cornerback had a solid rookie season, starting 10 games and allowing 45 catches on 71 targets with two interceptions and four passes defended.
Then the Vikings went out and signed Bashaud Breeland and Patrick Peterson and buried Dantzler on the depth chart. They took the majority of the snaps at outside corner while the 23-year-old had just 16 snaps in Week 2 while playing a minor role on special teams.
That changed in Week 4 when Dantzler finally got his chance against the Cleveland Browns and put up a great game. He played 92 percent of the defensive snaps and allowed just one completion on five targets.
Just when things were starting to look up for the Mississippi State product in Minnesota, he was placed on the injured reserve/COVID-19 list after testing positive for the virus, per Ian Rapoport of NFL Network.
Whatever reason the Vikings have opted not to play Dantzler for most of the season, the Niners reportedly inquired about him already, per David Lombardi of The Athletic. Now that they've seen what he can do, they should circle back and up the ante to pry him away from Minnesota.
Edge Trent Murphy
Among the more disappointing developments in San Francisco this season is the pass rush. A unit anchored by an elite threat in Joey Bosa should be among the best in the league at getting after the passer, yet it's ranked 25th in pressure percentage and has just nine sacks on the season.
Bosa is doing his part. He has four sacks and eight quarterback hits in those four games. And Dee Ford is making the most of a limited role, with three sacks and four quarterback hits.
But the production falls off pretty quickly from there.
It wouldn't hurt for the Niners to kick the tires on some free-agency options who could at least provide some depth. Perhaps Stanford product Trent Murphy would be interested in returning to the Bay Area to potentially finish out his NFL career.
The 30-year-old isn't the most explosive edge defender, but he does bring some versatility to the lineup and had seven sacks and 15 quarterback hits over his final two seasons in Buffalo.
At the very least, Murphy could take a few snaps on run downs to keep the team's best pass-rushers fresh throughout the season.
WR J.J. Arcega-Whiteside
Deebo Samuel is having an incredible breakout season, and George Kittle remains one of the most talented tight ends in the league. But the production at receiver outside of the former continues to be a concern.
As any Brandon Aiyuk fantasy football manager will tell you, the Niners are getting nearly nothing out of their second-year receiver. He was again almost non-existent against the Seahawks, bringing in one catch on three targets for 15 yards.
On the season, the 23-year-old has just six catches on 11 targets for 58 yards. The No. 2 wide receiver in terms of production has been Mohamed Sanu, who has eight catches for 78 yards on the season.
There are some big-name receivers who could be had in the trade market. Michael Thomas and Allen Robinson II would probably like to be dealt but would be difficult to handle from a cap standpoint.
So that means the Niners might be stuck trying to find value in a buy-low trade. An intriguing name they could look into would be J.J. Arcega-Whiteside from Philadelphia. He was a second-round pick in the 2019 draft but has never found a role in Philly.
The team has since drafted Jalen Reagor and DeVonta Smith with first-round picks. Arcega-Whiteside has played just 39 offensive snaps this season and mostly works as a special teamer.
The 24-year-old is a big target at 6'2" and 225 pounds with a basketball background. He hasn't worked out in Philadelphia but it isn't as though it's had the most stable franchise in recent years.
Perhaps a change of scenery will help him realize his potential, and San Francisco is in a position to take a flier on a high upside receiver.
Advanced statistics and snap counts via Pro Football Reference unless otherwise noted.
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