Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

ESPN ranks 49ers offensive weapons No. 18 in the NFL, last in the NFC West

Jul 13, 2020 at 9:19 AM--

Every team hopes to surround its quarterback with offensive weapons good enough to help lift a team to a Super Bowl win. Jimmy Garoppolo and the San Francisco 49ers nearly accomplished that last season with the arsenal he has at his disposal.

Bill Barnwell of ESPN recently went through the NFL and ranked each roster's skill-position talent, while noting that he was not factoring in the impact of the quarterback, offensive line, or scheme. Just the weapons at the quarterback's disposal.

Neither contract status nor long-term values mattered because this is a ranking for each group's impact in 2020. Barnwell notes that he is also factoring in injuries, which impacted San Francisco.

"Deebo Samuel could be that guy (an impactful target) in the long term, but the Jones fracture he suffered in June is likely to limit his effectiveness in 2020," writes Barnwell.

How did the 49ers rank? The Kyle Shanahan-led squad came in at No. 18 on Barnwell's list, which was last in the NFC West. The Seattle Seahawks came in at No. 15, the Los Angeles Rams at No. 11, and the Arizona Cardinals were the best in the division at No. 9.

The defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs, of course, came in at No. 1.

The top-level talent was valued higher within the ranking than strong depth. Barnwell notes that had depth been more of the focus, then the 49ers probably would have been closer to the top of the charts. The team is deep at running back and wide receiver.

"The Niners have one unquestioned star in tight end George Kittle," adds Barnwell, "who is the best all-around player at the position in the league, although I'd argue that Travis Kelce is more impactful as a pure receiver. At the same time, nobody who ran more than 200 routes in 2019 averaged more than Kittle's 3.3 yards per route run."

Barnwell goes on to say that outside of Kittle, who is a legitimate receiving target on his own, the 49ers threaten opposing defenses with consistent speed and the ability to extend plays after the catch.

With Samuel's injury, San Francisco will need young receivers like rookie Brandon Aiyuk and its second-round pick from a year ago, Jalen Hurd, to step up. Neither has taken an NFL snap.

"Guys like Dante Pettis, Trent Taylor, and Travis Benjamin are better than most teams' fourth and fifth wideouts," adds Barnwell, "but it's unclear whether any or all of them will make the roster."

Finally, Barnwell notes that Shanahan can create a successful rushing attack with just about anybody in the backfield, which is relevant given running back Raheem Mostert's request for a trade due to a contract dispute.

"Raheem Mostert led the league in rushing DVOA and still haunts the Packers after his postseason performance," explains Barnwell, "but it's telling that Shanahan has only been willing to use Mostert as a true No. 1 back when Tevin Coleman has been unavailable."

Update: We've been asked multiple times what the ranking was for the 49ers' offensive weapons leading into the 2019 season. It was No. 24. The offense finished No. 2 in the NFL in both points scored and rushing yards, and No. 4 in total yards.

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