Peter King

NFL Power Rankings: 49ers at No. 4 before 2020 season, Peter King says

NFL Power Rankings: 49ers at No. 4 before 2020 season, Peter King says

The 49ers were the best team in the NFC last season, and they had a pretty good offseason.

So they should be No. 1 or No. 2 in any preseason NFL power rankings, right?

Not quite, according to NBC Sports NFL analyst Peter King.

In King's latest Football Morning in America column, he ranked the 49ers at No. 4 behind the Kansas City Chiefs (No. 1), Baltimore Ravens (No. 2) and New Orleans Saints (No. 3).

King loved what 49ers general manager John Lynch was able to do this offseason.

"There isn’t a team that responded to its problems better than the Niners this offseason," King wrote. "San Francisco needed a left tackle after Joe Staley’s April retirement; GM John Lynch went out and got Pro Bowl left tackle Trent Williams, cheap. Knowing that he couldn’t pay all his top defensive frontmen, Lynch dealt DeForest Buckner for the 13th pick in the draft—and used that pick on South Carolina DT Javon Kinlaw. And needing a long-term receiver threat, the Niners traded up in the first round for Arizona State wideout Brandon Aiyuk."

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

While it's perfectly reasonable to put the Chiefs and Ravens ahead of the 49ers, ranking the Saints in front of them is a point of contention.

But King highlighted two areas that could be issues for the 49ers.

"The one long-term position Lynch needs to attack is the secondary—and not because of the late collapse against the Chiefs in the Super Bowl," King said. "Richard Sherman is 32, and greatness for a corner at 32 cannot be assumed. But a deep defensive front will help any issues defensive coordinator Robert Saleh has in the back end."

Despite a 23-6 record as a starter in the NFL, including the playoffs, and helping guide the 49ers to Super Bowl LIV, quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo has been criticized quite a bit this offseason. Whether or not it's deserved is a debate for another day, but King believes Garoppolo is the main reason the 49ers are behind the Saints on his ranking.

"The 49ers have an excellent chance to stay atop the tough NFC West, though a Lombardi Trophy will come only with more consistency from Jimmy Garoppolo," King wrote. "His 75.9 rating in the playoffs, while not coming out of nowhere, was more noticeable because of how coach Kyle Shanahan play-called in January after Garoppolo threw an ugly interception against the Vikings. In the Niners’ last six quarters before the Super Bowl, Garoppolo threw 14 passes and the Niners ran it 72 times. That might have happened in the Bob Griese Miami days, but man, was it noticeable in today’s football.

"The 49ers belittled the media for making a big deal of it, and every Niner player has pit-bulled questions about Garoppolo since, but come on. His two picks and missed deep ball to Emmanuel Sanders in the fourth quarter only exacerbated the issue. The only one who can do anything about this is cool Jimmy G, and I think all the badgering will push him to be better. But we haven’t seen it yet. That’s why the Saints are 3 and Niners 4 in this totally scientific rating of the teams."

[RELATED: Could Kittle's extension cost 49ers Ford?]

Yes, the Saints are good, and they signed Emmanuel Sanders away from the 49ers, but that talented team has come up short in the playoffs the last few years (a couple of questionable calls didn't help). Shanahan's crew now is battle-tested, and they will be hungry to avenge the bitter Super Bowl defeat.

The 49ers and Saints will meet again in New Orleans on Nov. 15. That Week 10 matchup should go a long way to determining which team is the best in the NFC, and possibly even the NFL.

[SPORTS UNCOVERED: Listen to the latest episode]

Peter King thought 49ers' Jalen Hurd would be Offensive Rookie of Year

Peter King thought 49ers' Jalen Hurd would be Offensive Rookie of Year

The 49ers have high hopes for wide receiver Jalen Hurd, and they're not the only ones who are expecting big things from the former third-round draft pick.

Outside of the very first preseason game, Hurd, 24, sat out the entirety of his rookie season with a stress fracture in his back. He hauled in two touchdown receptions in that lone preseason appearance, though, and was one of San Francisco's top performers in training camp. 

NBC Sports' Peter King visited 49ers training camp last year and departed thinking San Francisco had come away with the steal of the draft.

"I walked out of that camp, and we got in the car to go to the next place," he said on "The Peter King Podcast" to 49ers general manager John Lynch, "and the two women I was traveling with said, 'Well, what was your impression?' I said, 'We just saw the 2019 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year.' [Hurd] is going to come out of nowhere. He's going to be fantastic."

All the promise Hurd displayed has been kept under wraps ever since, as he never got the opportunity to build off that preseason debut. Every time he got close, he suffered a setback. On Monday, however, Lynch announced that Hurd has been cleared from his injury and is ramping up his rehabilitation at the team's practice facility.

"Well, he had a good redshirt year," Lynch said of Hurd to King. "Now, he's got to go do it. Our belief hasn't changed. We've seen him for 14 days on the field, and I agree with you. You can make a case he was the best player on the field for those 14 days.

"One of the things in this league, your best ability is availability. He's got to be available. That wasn't his fault. He had a stress reaction in his back that flared up. It was frustrating because every time he'd get close, he'd go try to ramp up, and it would hurt him. And that's the way those things are. I've learned more about that injury than I'd ever want to know."

Hurd was a running back at the University of Tennessee before transferring to Baylor, where he transitioned to receiver. The 49ers selected him in the third round of the 2019 NFL Draft due in large part to the diverse skill set he offers. In addition to his two collegiate positions, 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan envisioned using Hurd at tight end, as well.

"That vision for him hasn't changed," Lynch added. "Now he's just got to go do it and be available. We almost look at him as another draft choice this year."

[RELATED: 49ers' Aiyuk reminds college coach of former All-Pro Holt]

The 49ers had a great 2020 NFL Draft, and added to their cushion atop the NFC West.

If Hurd has the kind of sophomore season King expected him to have as a rookie, that gap will grow even wider.

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

Joe Staley retirement rumors fueled Bucs-49ers NFL draft-night trade

Joe Staley retirement rumors fueled Bucs-49ers NFL draft-night trade

Joe Staley didn't announce his retirement from the NFL until Saturday, but rumors of the longtime 49ers left tackle's decision fueled a trade two days prior to that.

During the first round of the 2020 NFL Draft on Thursday, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who held the No. 14 overall pick, were dead set on moving ahead of the 49ers, who held No. 13.

Why? Because Bucs general manager Jason Licht heard Staley might retire, and he believed the 49ers could look to draft his replacement at No. 13. Tampa Bay had its eyes on Iowa offensive tackle Tristan Wirfs, and wanted to get him before San Francisco did.

In the end, the Bucs wound up dealing straight with the 49ers. Tampa Bay received No. 13 and a seventh-round pick for No. 14 and a fourth-round choice.

The Bucs picked Wirfs, and the 49ers drafted South Carolina defensive tackle Javon Kinlaw at No. 14.

So, how do we know all these details? Because NBC Sports NFL analyst Peter King was granted special access to the Bucs' virtual draft room, and listened to the trade calls.

In his latest Football Morning In America column, King provided a minute-by-minute account of how the Bucs achieved their goal of moving ahead of the 49ers.

Here's the timeline of what went down, in King's words:

9:36 p.m. ET. “I don’t think we can mess around here,” Licht says, as San Francisco (13) goes on the clock. But why? Why not just sit at 14 and pick the last tackle of the great prospects, Tristan Wirfs of Iowa?

Licht had some intel that Niners starting left tackle Joe Staley was going to retire. So the free world was certain this next pick for the Niners was a great wide receiver or Javon Kinlaw, the defensive tackle who could replace the traded DeForest Buckner. Licht said: “Call A.P.” John Spytek, the personnel director, had been talking with San Francisco VP of player personnel Adam Peters during the week. Licht wanted this deal, and he wanted it now.

“The Staley stuff scared me,” Licht said later. “The Niners could definitely be a tackle team.”

9:37 p.m. ET. The GM side of Licht’s brain didn’t want to move up one spot and surrender a good pick (fourth round, 117 overall), while getting a seven in return. He know it might take that, but he wasn’t ready to make the offer yet. “A six,” he tells Spytek. “Start with that.” Spytek calls Peters.

9:39 p.m. ET. Spytek calls Peters again. Is on hold with him. “They’re thinking,” Spytek tells the group.

9:40 p.m. ET. Still on hold.

9:41 p.m. ET. R-r-r-r-ringggggg! Licht’s phone. He answers it, annoyed. “Nothanksnothanks,” he says quickly and hangs up. Trade offer he had no interest in. All that matters now is the Niners. Spytek has made the final offer: San Francisco trades a one and a seven (13 and 245) to Tampa Bay for a one and a four (14, 117).

9:42 p.m. ET. Waiting.

9:43 p.m. ET. Niners say yes, Spytek reports. “Do it,” Licht says. Licht looks at the clock. Just 1:31 remains in the Niners drafting period. Now Greenberg calls NFL trademeister Ken Fiore to report the deal; a Niners counterpart does the same to another member of Fiore’s team.

9:44 p.m. ET. “We good?” Licht says to the Cisco group. Yes, he’s told; trade accepted. Mike Biehl fills in the card for the league office, notifying them of the pick. Licht looks at the clock ... 45 seconds left in the period. Plenty of time!

Staley indeed retired, confirming what Licht had heard, but the 49ers went elsewhere to replace him, acquiring All-Pro left tackle Trent Williams from Washington on Saturday.

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

The draft-night trade with the Bucs helped the 49ers in another way. The fourth-round pick they acquired was used a short time later Thursday, when they traded it to the Minnesota Vikings to move up from No. 31 to No. 25. That's where the 49ers drafted Arizona State wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk.

The Bucs' fear and panic worked in the 49ers' favor. By moving down one spot, they acquired the asset required to move up later in the first round. Without it, they likely wouldn't have Aiyuk right now.

[RELATED: Rams coach McVay needed beer after 49ers' Williams trade]

And without the Bucs letting King in their virtual draft room, we wouldn't have these details on how it all happened.