The 49ers held a double-digit lead in the fourth quarter of Super Bowl LIV, and the consensus is that they just had a great 2020 NFL Draft weekend. So, is San Francisco currently even better than last season?
While there are legitimate arguments as to the affirmative, NFL Media's Jim Trotter disagrees.
"Objectively, you cannot say that they're better," Trotter told NFL Network's Andrew Siciliano earlier this week.
In making his argument as to why San Francisco currently is inferior to the team of last season, Trotter focused on three specific departures.
First off, he doesn't expect first-round draft pick Javon Kinlaw to be able to replicate the production of DeForest Buckner, who now plays for the Indianapolis Colts.
"A Second-Team All-Pro and team captain, a team MVP, and you bring in a rookie in Kinlaw," Trotter said. "Can you say objectively that Kinlaw will be better than Buckner this year? I don't think you can."
That's fair. While Kinlaw certainly projects to be a major contributor on the defensive line for several years to come, it's only reasonable to expect he'll encounter a learning curve. So, point taken.
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Next up, Trotter doesn't believe the 49ers' other first-round pick -- receiver Brandon Aiyuk -- will perform better for the team as a rookie than Emmanuel Sanders did last season.
"Can Aiyuk be better than Sanders was a year ago? Right now, objectively, you would say no. That's not to say that in a year or two he couldn't, but now, no."
Of all three of Trotter's arguments, this one is the most questionable. It's true, Sanders was tremendous for San Francisco ever since coming over in a mid-season trade with the Denver Broncos, and immediately became one of Jimmy Garoppolo's go-to targets. He brought lots of experience to the table that Aiyuk will not, but on the other hand, Aiyuk is younger, bigger, more athletic and might play even faster. Not to mention, Aiyuk will have the entire offseason program and all of training camp to learn the playbook, whereas Sanders had to learn it on the fly. It's understandable why Trotter feels the way he does, but it wouldn't be all that surprising if it was more of a push than a one-sided comparison.
As for the third departure, Trotter actually believes the 49ers did improve in that specific area. He believes Trent Williams, whom San Francisco acquired in a draft-day trade with Washington, to be a legitimate upgrade over the recently-retired Joe Staley. However, comprehensively, he doesn't view the 49ers as an improved team.
"When you put it all together, objectively, you cannot say that they're better," he summarized. "Which is not to say that they won't be by the end of the year. Some of the young guys may step up, but there's also the possibility the veterans may take a step back. But right now, it just has to play out. But the feeling for the 49ers is they were so dominant in the playoffs last year, beating both NFC opponents by 17 points, that they feel they are still the class of the NFC at this point."
Whether they're improved or not, the 49ers deserve to feel that way.