49ers

Do 49ers have more offensive weapons than Seahawks, Cardinals, Rams?

Do 49ers have more offensive weapons than Seahawks, Cardinals, Rams?

Built by a mastermind in Kyle Shanahan, the 49ers' offense was much more a sum of parts than full of stars last season. The same can be said for this upcoming season as well.

Outside of George Kittle, the 49ers don't have any true star skill players. And yet, they ranked No. 2 in rushing offense and total points last season, behind only the Baltimore Ravens, which were led by MVP Lamar Jackson. San Francisco also was 13th in passing yards per game and fourth in total yards. 

With the emergence of the Arizona Cardinals and the Seattle Seahawks always being contenders, the NFC West might have become even stronger this offseason. So, how does the 49ers' skill positions on offense compare to the rest of the division? 

Let's break it down, position by position.

Quarterback

The obvious answer here is Seahawks star Russell Wilson is the cream of the crop when it comes to QBs in the NFC West. We know that, there's no arguing that notion. 

Where it gets interesting is, who comes next?

Cardinals QB Kyler Murray took home the Offensive Rookie of the Year in a pass-heavy offense that seems primed for him to put up huge numbers. Jimmy Garoppolo gets knocked all too often, but the reality is he had one of the best seasons for a quarterback in 49ers history, one season after tearing his ACL. And then there's Jared Goff, who took a big step back last season. 

It seems Garoppolo and Murray are vying for who's No. 2 in the NFC West QB race. It will be fascinating to watch, as both offenses got better and both teams have offensive-minded coaches who should set their quarterbacks up for success.

Advantage: Seahawks

Running backs

After the Los Angeles Rams let Todd Gurley go this offseason, there aren't any true big-name running backs in the NFC West. Raheem Mostert looked like a star in the making for the 49ers with his historic performance in the NFC Championship Game, but can they rely on him to be a true No. 1 back? 

Mostert is preparing like he will get 200 carries this season, however, that seems unlikely. Even after trading Matt Breida to the Miami Dolphins, San Francisco still has a deep group of backs that will share carries outside of Mostert.

Kenyan Drake could be an emerging star in Arizona and the Rams will rotate a flurry of inexperienced backs, including rookie Cam Akers. The Seahawks have a strong option in 1,000-yard rusher Chris Carson and will use many backs after him. 

Drake and Carson might be the most gifted of the group in the NFC West, but there's a caveat with the 49ers: Jerick McKinnon looks healthy again and receiver Deebo Samuel should be seen as an extra ball-carrier.

Advantage: 49ers

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Receivers

Everything changed once the Cardinals acquired DeAndre Hopkins from the Houston Texans this offseason. Arizona now has one of the best receivers in the league, and a true No. 1 for their young QB. Pairing Hopkins with the ultra-reliable Larry Fitzgerald gives the Cardinals one of the best duos in the NFL. 

D.K. Metcalf is a problem for opposing cornerbacks and the jacked-up receiver should be even better in Year 2 for the Seahawks. He and Tyler Lockett give Seattle a solid duo, and the Rams' one-two punch of Cooper Kupp and Robert Woods is nothing to scoff at. 

So, where do the 49ers fit in? Samuel looks like the perfect weapon for Shanahan and should emerge as the No. 1 receiver for San Francisco. Kendrick Bourne continues to be clutch and is a nice secondary option. After that, it's all potential and a lot of question marks.

The 49ers have high hopes for first-round pick Brandon Aiyuk, and the same goes for Jalen Hurd and Trent Taylor coming off injuries. General manager John Lynch also hasn't given up on Dante Pettis yet. 

The Cardinals have the star power, but the 49ers could have the depth. We'll give this one to Arizona, though, it's a tight contest.

Advantage: Cardinals

[RELATED: Why 49ers' Aiyuk could struggle finding targets as rookie]

Tight End

George Kittle. 

Need I say more? No, no I don't. Will Dissly (Seattle), Tyler Higbee (Los Angeles) and Maxx Williams (Arizona) all are nice pieces. None are Kittle. Not even close. 

Advantage: 49ers

The 49ers might not have the most star power, but they do have the most offensive weapons when you take into account adding Aiyuk, plus getting several injured players back this season. 

Whenever the NFL season starts, San Francisco's offense should be a scary sight for opposing defenses.

How George Kittle leading NFL in odd stat shows he could be even better

How George Kittle leading NFL in odd stat shows he could be even better

George Kittle was named First-Team All-Pro for the first time last season. He had the highest-graded season by a tight end in the Pro Football Focus era, and was the best overall player in the NFL last season by PFF's rankings. 

And he could have been even better with some help from the yellow flag. Kittle hauled in 85 receptions for 1,053 yards and five touchdowns last season despite missing two games. With a little more luck, those numbers would have been even more impressive. 

PFF's Ian Hartitz found that Kittle had three touchdowns nullified by penalties last year, leading all players in the strange stat.

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"Arguably the best tight end in the entire NFL could've had an even bigger season with a little better acting and/or performance from his teammates," Hartitz wrote.

It gets better (worse?), too. By Hartitz's count, the 49ers lead all teams with seven touchdowns called back by penalty in 2019.

[RELATED: 49ers' Taylor looks good, making explosive cuts in workout]

Through the video of Kittle's called-back TDs, it appears he should have had at least another 40 yards receiving on the penalty-ridden touchdowns alone. The 49ers' star tight end already had an elite season. This would have put him over the top. 

If the 49ers can clean up their penalties and Kittle remains healthy, expect another huge season from the fourth-year pro.

49ers' Trent Taylor looks healthy, making explosive cuts in workout video

49ers' Trent Taylor looks healthy, making explosive cuts in workout video

The 49ers already have dealt with two unfortunate injuries to their receiving corps this offseason with Deebo Samuel's broken foot and Richie James' fractured wrist. There could be a silver lining to this summer's injury bug, though. 

Trent Taylor looks strong and healthy on his surgically repaired right foot. This could be huge for Kyle Shanahan's offense and the development of quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo. 

Taylor sustained a Jones fracture -- the same injury as Samuel -- in training camp last year and never fully recovered. He wound up having to undergo five surgeries and missed the entire 2019 season. But in a recent workout video with teammate George Kittle, Taylor looks to be back to the player that quickly became a favorite target of Garoppolo's in 2017. 

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The 5-foot-8 slot receiver was the perfect comfort blanket for Garoppolo after he took over the starting QB job late in 2017. Garoppolo completed 17 of his 20 pass attempts to Taylor for 191 yards in 2017, and had a 102.3 QB rating when targeting the slippery receiver over the final five games of the season. 

Taylor's stats took a tumble in 2018 with Garoppolo sidelined. Fellow receiver Kendrick Bourne believes that's about to change this season. 

Before Taylor went down in camp last season, 49ers coaches had high hopes for him. Really high.

"Several S.F. coaches believed he was headed for a Pro Bowl campaign at this time a year ago, and having former Patriots and Broncos star Wes Welker as his position coach and role model doesn't hurt," NFL Media's Mike Silver said back in May.

[RELATED: 49ers haven't forgotten about McKinnon; neither should you]

Even if Taylor isn't a star or Pro Bowl receiver, he's proved his value by developing chemistry with Garoppolo when healthy. Every quarterback has their guy where they can feel their energy on the field. It's an invisible, invaluable bond. 

Taylor could be that guy for Garoppolo, only making this offense that much more explosive.