49ers

Chiefs' Tyreek Hill says 49ers will face one of most explosive offenses ever

Chiefs' Tyreek Hill says 49ers will face one of most explosive offenses ever

MIAMI, Fla. -- NFL history is heavily populated with explosive offenses that couldn’t win a title. All that scoring eventually ran into a stout defense with the right stuff to break down a scoring machine.

The 1999 St. Louis Rams bucked that trend. Then the 2009 New Orleans Saints turned a great offense into a Lombardi Trophy.

The Kansas City Chiefs will try to follow suit on Sunday against the 49ers in Super Bowl LIV. This matchup offers a contrast in styles, with Kansas City’s high-octane offense versus a potent 49ers defense with an unreal front lead by rookie Nick Bosa and former Chief Dee Ford.

You can look at raw numbers, however, and see the 49ers run better and scored more this regular season than Kansas City, but let’s not forget Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes missed two games with a knee injury and took some time to get revved up again.

Make no mistake. The Chiefs are stacked. The reigning MVP is behind the center. They have unreal speed on the outside and a bully tight end. While they struggled some earlier in the year, the Chiefs put 51 points on Houston in the divisional round and 35 on Tennessee in the AFC title game.

Even if this year’s stats don’t show it, last year’s do. The Chiefs averaged 35.3 points and 425 yards per game in 2018, a year that ended with a playoff loss to New England.

Receiver Tyreek Hill believes this year’s attack is more talented than that one. Kansas City added Sammy Watkins in free agency and Mecole Hardman through the draft, giving them more speed and explosiveness this time around.

They have so much, that Hill thinks this offense might be the most talented collection to reach the Super Bowl. That includes the Greatest Show on Turf.

“We have a 4x100 team on the field,” Hill said. “We have a relay team, man. No disrespect to Tory Holt and Isaac Bruce. They only have a few guys. We have five guys who can run a 4.3. Come on, man. We’re fast.”

And good scoring fast and in several different ways. Hardman wasn’t ready to dub this attack the most talented to reach the Super Bowl, but he has great confidence in what K.C. can do after finding their rhythm.

“There have been a lot of great offenses over the years, with explosive players like Randy Moss [on the Patriots]. What about the Greatest Show on Turf? Those guys were awesome,” Hardman said. “I will say that we have a great combination of speed on the outside, Travis Kelce in the middle and a truly great quarterback like Pat Mahomes. You put all that together and we’re definitely in the conversation, but it won’t matter if we don’t finish the season outright. We think we’re great. Now we have to show everybody why we think that.”

[RELATED: How Alex Smith helped Chiefs' Patrick Mahomes develop in rookie season]

Head coach/offensive mastermind Andy Reid plays a role in all this as well. His creative play designs capitalize on Mahomes’ unique ability and the raw talent at the skill positions.

“His knowledge of offense and this game is off the charts,” Hardman said. “Looking at the playbook and how thick it was, and when you get into it, he’s running concepts I had never seen before. The routes he comes with, especially when he and Pat get to brainstorming, is stuff I had never heard of. It’s so smart and innovative. When you combine his mind with what we’ve got on the field, we can do some crazy things.”

2020 NFL Draft: Five defensive players 49ers should watch at combine

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AP

2020 NFL Draft: Five defensive players 49ers should watch at combine

What a difference one year can make.

The 49ers entered the NFL Scouting Combine with the No. 2 pick in the draft and their eyes on defensive Nick Bosa. This time around, San Francisco has the the No. 31 pick after losing to the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl LIV, and Bosa was named Defensive Rookie of the Year. 

While the 49ers have fewer needs and holes to fill than before last season, there still are areas they can improve on through the draft. We already highlighted five receivers they should be watching throughout the combine. Now it's time to turn to the defense. 

Under coordinator Robert Saleh, the 49ers' pass defense improved by leaps and bounds last season. They allowed the fewest passing yards per games in the NFL at 169.2, but ranked just 16th in touchdowns allowed (23) and tied for eighth with 12 interceptions. Their pass defense benefitted greatly from a dangerous D-line, and the defensive backfield still could use some help. 

Safety Jimmie Ward is set to hit free agency, cornerback Richard Sherman turns 32 years old in March and is a free agent after 2020, and cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon took yet another step back in his third pro season. 

Alabama's Xavier McKinney could be the perfect draft prospect for the 49ers, but likely will be gone by the time they're on the board. Cal product Ashtyn Davis also would have been a name to watch at the combine, however, the former track star isn't competing in drills as he rehabs from surgery that left him out of the Senior Bowl and the Redbox Bowl. 

LSU safety Grant Delpit fell to the 49ers in our latest mock draft before the combine, but won't perform in drills as he comes back from an ankle injury.

With that being said, here are five defensive backs for the 49ers to keep their eyes on in Indianapolis. All of the players below are expected to be available near the end of the first round of if the 49ers trade back to the second round.

C.J. Henderson, CB, Florida

Henderson is expected to test well and could be really impressive in drills. He's a lanky cornerback at 6-foot-1 and 204 pounds, who looks smooth in coverage. 

Henderson didn't have any interceptions as a junior but didn't produce 11 passes defensed. Over his three-year college career, he had six picks and 20 passes defensed. 

It might be a surprise if he's still available at No. 31. 

Damon Arnette, CB, Ohio State

Jeffrey Okudah stole the spotlight in the Buckeyes' secondary, but Arnette is rising up draft boards. While Okudah figures to be a top pick, Arnette should be available for the 49ers. 

That doesn't mean Arnette is a player to look past, though. He can play press or off the ball and got better and better at Ohio State. 

Arnette has plenty to gain at the combine, and could find himself on the 49ers' radar. 

Trevon Diggs, CB, Alabama

There are serious concerns for Diggs as a tackler. He is a converted receiver and it really shows at times. But, his skills could convert well to Saleh's Cover 3 defense.

Diggs is the kind of long corner at 6-2 and 207 pounds that Saleh covets. The athleticism and ball skills are there. There also are reasons to worry about him if asked to do what doesn't fit him best. 

A.J. Terrell, CB, Clemson

One bad outing doesn't change everything. Terrell was roasted for giving up multiple touchdowns in the national championship game, but many of those were from being slightly too aggressive and a technique issue that easily can be changed. 

Terrell is a handsy corner who really knows how to jab. If the he falls down boards, the 49ers should take advantage of that. 


Antoine Winfield Jr., S, Minnesota

Winfield is a firecracker. The 5-10 safety might not dominate the 40-yard dash but he makes plays. As a redshirt sophomore, Winfield recorded 83 tackles, seven interceptions and forced two fumbles. 

Winfield might not be the 49ers' first option at safety, however, they could take a long look at him if he falls. His tape speaks louder than his size or straight-line speed. 

NFL Draft 2020: 49ers consider all options while preparing for long wait on draft day

NFL Draft 2020: 49ers consider all options while preparing for long wait on draft day

INDIANAPOLIS. Ind. -- One year ago when the 49ers descended upon the NFL Scouting Combine, they knew they would be able to select their most-prized draft prospect.

In part because of the way defensive end Nick Bosa produced after being the No. 2 overall pick in the draft, the 49ers will be waiting a long time this year before making their first selection.

“It’s fun this time of the year having the low (draft pick) and being able to look at the Bosas of the world and those guys, but it’s a lot more fun playing deep into the year so you take the later pick,” 49ers general manager John Lynch said.

The 49ers finished the regular season with 13 wins, won the NFC West, earned homefield advantage throughout the NFC playoffs and advanced to the Super Bowl. The 49ers would rather be drafting at No. 32. But after letting a 10-point lead get away in a 31-20 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl LIV, the 49ers select at No. 31.

The options of which player the 49ers could end up with their first pick are endless. They also know they will not be in a position of selecting a player who will be guaranteed big money throughout the course of a four-year contract.

“There's not as much pressure getting to know all the top guys in the draft,” 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said.

The 49ers dealt away their picks in the second, third and fourth rounds to acquire edge rusher Dee Ford and wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders. The 49ers’ next scheduled pick after their spot near the end of the first round will come in the fifth round.

“We don’t have as much equity as we’ve had in year’s past so we’ve got to figure out a way,” Lynch said. “We’ve got to be creative. We got to be exhaustive in all the avenues we look at to improve our football team and we are committed to doing that.”

The strength of the 49ers’ roster is near the top of the NFL. But the club still has several areas to address, such as wide receiver, offensive line, defensive line and the defensive backfield. What occurs for the 49ers during free agency, which begins in mid-March, will determine the immediate needs the team will look to fill in the draft.

Shanahan and his staff are about five weeks behind their usual offseason because of their Super Bowl run. The team’s coaches are working on going through their season evaluations of each of the players from last season. They are also working on evaluating the options on the free-agent market and in the draft.

The coaches came to the combine to begin the process of learning about the draft prospects. Shanahan and his offensive assistants completed interviews with players on that side of the ball on Wednesday and were on the first flight out of Indianapolis on Thursday morning. They will watch the on-field workouts on video back at the team’s headquarters in Santa Clara.

“You can eliminate a lot of people when you're at No. 2,” Shanahan said. “You don't have to put as much time into everyone. You still do it, but when you're at No. 31, you have to be ready for anything.”

“Also, you don't just sit there and look at your draft and say, 'All right, we've got to know (Nos.) 1 through 31, but then we can chill to the fourth or fifth round and take a day off.’ Things change. There's always trades and different draft picks.”

It seems logical the 49ers would want to accumulate more draft picks. If they can find a team that wants the No. 31 overall pick, the 49ers could move back -- and, perhaps, move back again and again -- to acquire a selections in the second, third or fourth rounds.

[RELATED49ers should watch these receivers during the combine

“I think the important part right now is that we are prepared for all scenarios and so the best way to do that is to do our due diligence in terms of getting ready for the draft class, the free-agent class and evaluating our own players,” Lynch said.

“So that’s our mind set. I think those things will take care of themselves is our plan, and kind of our vision for making our team better this year develops further. But, right now, the most important part is that we work really hard in trying to assess the talents and the opportunities to improve our team.”

49ERS 2020 DRAFT PICKS
1. First round: Own pick; No. 31
2. Fifth round: Denver pick from WR Emmanuel Sanders trade; No. 156
3. Fifth round: Own pick; No. 176
4. Sixth round: Own pick; No. 210
5. Seventh round: Detroit pick for LB Eli Harold, 2018; No. 217
6. Seventh round: Own pick; No. 245

Original picks traded:
Second-round pick traded to Kansas City for DE Dee Ford

Third- and fourth-round picks traded to Denver for WR Emmanuel Sanders