49ers

49ers' nightmare 2020 season scenario outlined by Pro Football Focus

49ers' nightmare 2020 season scenario outlined by Pro Football Focus

Big things are expected from the 49ers in 2020.

A year after being six minutes away from Super Bowl glory, Kyle Shanahan, Jimmy Garoppolo and Co. plan to make it back to the Super Bowl and finish the job this time. The 49ers have a loaded roster that is ready to win now. But what if things go the other way? After all, the NFL teams often go from first place to last at the drop of a hat. Even so, on paper, the 49ers seem too talented to fail.

Pro Football Focus' Ben Linsey outlined the best- and worst-case scenario for each team. We know the 49ers' best-case scenario. They run through the NFL with little resistance en route to a sixth Super Bowl title in franchise history. Their worst-case scenario, which PFF has as their 10th percentile outcome has them land at 7-9.

Per PFF:

Deebo Samuel’s foot injury is a problem that drags into the season, and the 49ers are without not just Emmanuel Sanders, but now both of their top two weapons at wide receiver from a season ago. They still have George Kittle, but the absence of Samuel puts considerable pressure on rookie Brandon Aiyuk ─ who has just one college season of high-level play under his belt ─ to be “the guy” at wide receiver. In turn, the 49ers offense becomes more one-dimensional, relying more on the run game than they would like to. Defensively, neither Emmanuel Moseley nor Ahkello Witherspoon takes full command of the No. 2 spot outside, which gives opposing offenses a weak spot to target.

Samuel's injury should be a point of concern for the 49ers. While the second-year receiver is optimistic he'll return for Week 1, Jones fractures often don't heal properly the first time and require more rehab or even a second surgery. Samuel was set to have a breakout season alongside rookie Brandon Aiyuk, George Kittle and Kendrick Bourne. If Samuel's injury causes him to miss more than a few weeks than Garoppolo will have to rely on Aiyuk, Bourne, Jalen Hurd and Trent Taylor to carry the load in the passing game.

That's a lot to ask of a rookie, a second-year player who missed his entire rookie season, a receiver coming off a missed season due to a Jones fracture of his own and Bourne, who has been a reliable slot receiver but isn't a No. 1.

Yes, Kittle will still see the majority of targets, but if defenses can bracket him without the threat of giving up big plays to Samuel or Emmanuel Sanders, it could make the 49ers' offense less potent. Aiyuk has worlds of talent, there's no doubt about that. But receivers often take time to adjust to the NFL, so expecting him to come in and be a No. 1 receiver immediately is unlikely.

While all that spells trouble, the 49ers still have one of the best offensive minds in football drawing up their plays in Kyle Shanahan. If the passing game is shaky early on due to Samuel's absence, I expect he'll be able to find a way to scheme around that.

As for the defense, the 49ers have little to worry about. Even if Emmanuel Moseley or Ahkello Witherspoon struggle, the 49ers' defensive line still will be one of the best in the game. A dominant defensive line is a secondary's best friend.

[RELATED: Jimmy G receives two votes as top 10 QB in poll]

A 7-9 season would be beyond disappointing for a 49ers team that enters the season thinking Super Bowl or bust. They will have to stay healthy, hope Samuel heals on the 12=to-16 week timeline and get solid contributions on offense from Aiyuk, Hurd and Bourne is his absence. If they do that, a trip to Tampa should be in their sights.

Anything can happen in the NFL. Even good teams have nightmare seasons.

How Charlie Woerner won George Kittle over early in 49ers tenure

How Charlie Woerner won George Kittle over early in 49ers tenure

George Kittle is one of the top passing weapons in the NFL, But while the 49ers star tight end excels at running through defenders, there's nothing he loves more than asserting his will in the run game.

Kittle is one of the best blocking tight ends in football, and the whole world saw his enthusiasm for blocking when the 49ers asserted their will over the Minnesota Vikings in the NFC Divisional Round by running the ball on eight straight plays, capped off by 2-yard touchdown run by Tevin Coleman. Kittle was mic'd up in the win and was caught imploring his team to "run it again" as they pushed the Vikings down the field during the 27-10 win.

The 49ers added another tight end to their stable this offseason by drafting Georgia product Charlie Woerner in the sixth round. While it can be hard for rookies to win over veterans, Woerner easily got on Kittle's good side during a player's only workout this offseason.

"I'm excited. Charlie's a good dude," Kittle said on the "Pardon My Take" podcast. "We were actually running routes together, and he was like, 'Hey, this passing stuff is kind of boring. When are we going to start talking about the run game?'

"And I was like, 'You're my guy. I needed that out of you.'"

[49ERS INSIDER PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

Woerner wasn't utilized a lot in the passing game at Georgia. He caught just nine passes for 78 yards and one touchdown in seven games during his senior season. The Bulldog believes he can learn a lot from Kittle, who has gone from unknown fifth-round draft pick to star in no time at all.

“I’m super pumped to be in the tight ends room with him,” Woerner said after being drafted. “As a guy who blocks a lot at Georgia I just love watching him play, just the way and style he played at the 49ers this year and how aggressive he is in the blocking game. I love to emulate him, try to be like him.”

[RELATED: Jimmy G arrives at training camp wearing hilarious Kittle shirt]

As a young tight end coming into the NFL, you'd be hard-pressed to find a better role model than Kittle.

Woerner already has endeared himself to his new teammate, now he gets to learn from one of the best players in the NFL every day. Not a bad start to an NFL career.

Why Peter King bets Seahawks sign Antonio Brown despite suspension

Why Peter King bets Seahawks sign Antonio Brown despite suspension

If NBC Sports' Peter King had to bet on Antonio Brown's next home, one team is above the rest: The Seattle Seahawks.

"I think if I had to put $5 down on Antonio Brown’s team for this year after his eight-game ban is served, I’d put it on Seattle," King wrote in his latest Football Morning in America column. "Russell Wilson is a fan and wants it to happen, Pete Carroll isn’t afraid of risky guys, and John Schneider (Percy Harvin, Josh Gordon) is okay with taking shots on game-breakers with baggage."

There's baggage, and then there's Antonio Brown. We all saw what happened with the Raiders last year. There's no need to go down that rabbit hole again. 

Even after the Raiders released Brown, his behavior became that much more bizarre and dangerous. His talent is that of an all-time great, but the risk is beyond high, to say the least.

[49ERS INSIDER PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

Brown also was suspended by the NFL for the first eight games of the 2020 season on Friday. The free-agent receiver was suspended for multiple violations of the league's personal-conduct policy. Any team is free to sign him after eight games. 

This also comes less than two weeks after Brown said he's retired from football on Twitter. 

It does, however, make sense why King would peg him a possible future Seahawk. After watching the 49ers win the NFC West and make it all the way to Super Bowl LIV, Seattle reportedly had "internal discussions" about signing Brown. When it comes to his talent, Brown is a game-changer and Wilson reportedly expressed he "would love" to play with AB.

[RELATED: Kittle tells story explaining why Shanahan is a 'wizard']

On paper, any QB would love to throw passes to Brown. From 2013 through 2018, he averaged 114 receptions, 1,524 receiving yards and 11 touchdowns. That would be a big boost for Russell and the Seahawks, and a detriment to 49ers defensive backs. 

But Brown remains out of the league as a free agent who might be too much of a risk despite his Hall of Fame talent.