The San Francisco 49ers came one BS push off call on George Kittle away from winning Super Bowl LIV. Since then, they’ve added two wide receivers (if you count Jalen Hurd), and lost Deebo Samuel. They also replaced perennial Pro Bowl tackle, Joe Staley, with… perennial Pro Bowl tackle Trent Williams. They’re set up to repeat on a 2019 team that scored a hair under 30 points per game. What can sleeper, breakout, and bust can we pull from Kyle Shanahan’s squad?
Sleeper – Jalen Hurd, Wide Receiver (WR96, 290 overall)
The 49ers took Jalen Hurd in the third round last year, #67 overall. This was part of a wide receiver run that included DK Metcalf at #64 and Terry McLaurin at #76. So, Hurd is in some pretty lofty territory when it comes to his draft compatriots. He’s a good running back… er… wide receiver. Maybe tight end? At 6’5” 229, the thinking behind Hurd when he was drafted was the same way the 49ers deployed Deebo Samuel last year: a big receiver/running back/blocker/swiss army knife who creates problems all over the field. With Deebo, Hurd, and Brandon Aiyuk, you can see that Kyle Shanahan and the San Francisco 49ers have a type. Hurd is coming off a back injury and has an opportunity to produce if Deebo Samuel’s foot injury costs him time in the regular season.
Breakout – Brandon Aiyuk, Wide Receiver (WR68, 193 overall)
The 49ers took Brandon Aiyuk in the first round to fill the roster spot left by Emmanuel Sanders. Unfortunately for Aiyuk and the 49ers, a foot injury to Deebo Samuel might just leave the 49ers with Brandon Aiyuk filling Deebo’s role, instead. Aiyuk can handle it, as he played as a mini-Deebo Samuel, all over Arizona State’s formations last season. Aiyuk is a talented guy, but he went ahead of players I thought were clearly better. Shanahan & Co. have a plan for Brandon Aiyuk, and so far I’ve liked the plans that I’ve seen out of these guys.
Bust – Raheem Mostert, Running Back (RB26, 63 overall)
As of writing this, Raheem Mostert has requested a trade, which would set off a chain reaction that would destroy the weird and varied 49ers’ running back room. Or not. The simple truth of the matter is that many, many people are hyping Mostert as having RB1 upside. They use a lot of half-stats (“led 49ers’ RBs over the second half of the season,” ignoring that he had sixteen targets in those games) or they gloss over the details of the NFC Championship Game. Hint: anyone was running through that Packers’ defense, and Tevin Coleman had the first cracks at goal-line carries before his shoulder dislocated.
One of my favorite ways to demonstrate that the 49ers used a myriad of backs in a plethora of situations in 2019 was that Jeff Wilson, Jr. had a game-winning touchdown late in the season in his first (and only!) offensive snap of the game. Shanahan is a wizard of using mixing-and-matching backs, and he was actively trying to get the other backs involved more often when Mostert “led” the backfield. In his 19 games last year, Mostert topped fifteen touches twice. That’s not the RB1 upside you’re looking for.