49ers Preview Capsule
SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS (6-10)
Strengths: QB Jimmy Garoppolo. Track record short with just seven NFL starts. Garoppolo won all of them and earned $137.5 million contract in offseason. Thrived last season while learning offense on fly. Completed 67.4 percent of passes with 8.8 yard per attempt, seven TDs, five INTs and 96.2 rating. His 308.4 yards passing per game in five starts would have led league had he played full season.
Weaknesses: Niners did little to upgrade pass rush despite only 30 sacks last season. Dumervil cut after leading team with 6 1/2 sacks and San Francisco didn’t draft any edge rushers. Main offseason addition was Attaochu, who had 10 sacks in four seasons for Chargers. Key to improving rush will be better season from 2017 No. 3 overall pick Solomon Thomas and more production from DeForest Buckner. Niners experimenting with Buckner on outside at times to create better matchups.
Fantasy Players To Watch: WR Marquise Goodwin. Goodwin showed he’s more than speed receiver last season. Smashed career highs with 56 catches, 962 yards in first season with 49ers. Played even better with Garoppolo at QB. Goodwin ranked in top six in catches (29) and yards (384) during Garoppolo’s five starts. Carrying that over to full season could make him one of top receivers in league.
Vegas Says: Super Bowl 28-1. Over/under wins 8.
Expectations: After 21 wins under four coaches past four seasons, Niners poised to get back into contention. Coach Kyle Shanahan and GM John Lynch began turnaround last season despite 0-9 start. Process accelerated as soon as Garoppolo arrived from New England, leading five straight wins to end year. Roster still has question marks because of season-ending injury to RB Jerick McKinnon, lack of pass rush and unknowns in secondary. But if Sherman can bounce back from Achilles tendon surgery and regain top form and LB Reuben Foster stays healthy and out of trouble, defense could be improved enough for playoff run.