It’s an annual tradition in the NFL. Local media and national experts alike traffic in hope that "Team X" will be better than last year for any number of reasons, or that a particular player has looked “significantly better” in camp.
However, until the rosters are finalized and the regular season opens up on Sept. 8, it’s all hearsay.
One team in particular that has received a lot of positive press throughout the late summer has been the 49ers. To be fair, there isn’t much room to regress from a 4-12 season and earning the No. 2 pick in the NFL Draft.
NFL.com writer Adam Rank is not sold on all the reports of a breakout season for Kyle Shanahan and the 49ers, as he included the team in his most recent “Unpopular Opinions” column.
Below is Rank’s justification for not buying into the hype for the 49ers:
I'm just having a hard time putting the 49ers in the upper half of the NFC. I love Jimmy Garoppolo, my dude from Arlington Heights, Illinois, which is not too far from my birthplace of Schaumburg. Love him, but it's got to be tough love. He's never started more than seven games in an NFL season. He closed out 2017 with five consecutive wins after being traded to the 49ers and has the best winning percentage since 2016 (.800) among quarterbacks to have started 10-plus games in that span, but he's coming off a devastating knee injury that ended his 2018 campaign after three brief appearances. In Week 1, he threw three interceptions against the Vikings. He avoided disaster against the Lions in Week 2, though he looked timid as he was sacked six times (including three that came in the red zone). Garoppolo also threw an interception late that would have cost the 49ers the game if it hadn't been nullified by a holding penalty. I will say he was looking great against the Chiefs in Week 3, but the Chiefs' defense was "Madden" rookie level last year. Just being honest. Garoppolo is still developing as a quarterback. He's going to be very good in this league, but it's a process.
Several national NFL analysts have predicted Garoppolo will have a major comeback season after tearing his ACL in Week 3 of the 2018 season.
Rank did close out his copy with a wide-ranging prediction for the team:
This is the NFL. The 49ers could win 12 games and it wouldn't surprise me. They could also win three. But you have the Rams and Seahawks already in the division. The Cardinals are going to be much better than people think they are. In fact, Kyler Murray is going to be like Lamar Jackson, but in a more dynamic offense. So I need to be convinced more regarding the 49ers.
With San Francisco not facing a 2018 playoff team until Week 5 (Rams), there will be plenty of chances for the 49ers to convince the NFL universe that the hype, is in fact, legitimate.