Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

Schein ranks 49ers as top worst-to-first candidate but questions quarterbacks

Jun 4, 2021 at 9:20 AM--

Adam Schein of NFL Network recently ranked the NFL's top worst-to-first candidates. The columnist went division-by-division and examined last season's last-place finishers, ordering each of the eight squads based on their chances to win their respective divisions in 2021.

The team with the best chance, in Schein's mind, is the San Francisco 49ers. With a relatively clean bill of health this season, he feels the Niners should be much improved. After all, it wasn't that long ago that head coach Kyle Shanahan's squad played in the Super Bowl.

"The return of Nick Bosa, in particular, changes everything for the defense," Schein noted. "The 2019 Defensive Rookie of the Year tore his ACL in Week 2 of last season. In a related note, the Niners finished the season 22nd in sacks. With Bosa, the 49ers' front gets its bite back."

On offense, Schein can't wait to see what Shanahan does with a healthy trio of Brandon Aiyuk, Deebo Samuel, and George Kittle at his disposal.

While Schein ranks the 49ers at the top of his list, he still feels there is a good chance the team will finish no better than third in the NFC West, behind the Los Angeles Rams and the Arizona Cardinals.

"That's not a slight to the 49ers, but rather a reflection of the NFC West's status as the best quartet in the NFL bar none," Schein explains. "Shoot, I have the Seahawks, who've logged double-digit wins in eight of the past nine seasons, finishing last. This division's going to be spectacularly competitive. And despite my current forecast, there are plenty of reasons to believe San Francisco will win the West."

Then you have the quarterback situation in Santa Clara. New Niners defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans will be tasked with stopping Russell Wilson, Kyler Murray, and division newcomer Matthew Stafford at least twice each during the upcoming season. Right now, many might rank San Francisco's group of passers last in the division.

Schein is among those who feel that way. There are high hopes for rookie Trey Lance, but Jimmy Garoppolo is slated to be the Week 1 starter, with the plan to allow Lance to sit and learn this season.

"I still don't love the mix at quarterback," wrote Schein. "Is Trey Lance ready to rock? He only started 17 games at FCS powerhouse North Dakota State, and just turned 21 last month. Is Jimmy Garoppolo truly still the QB1 for 2021? This kind of feels like an old-school episode of Days of Our Lives where Roman just refuses to die. The quarterback situations in Los Angeles, Arizona and Seattle appear vastly superior. But with Shanahan running the offense, you never say never."

I'm not familiar with that soap opera reference, but the point is understood.

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