Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

PFF ranks 49ers receivers group at No. 7, running backs at No. 18

Jun 4, 2021 at 2:37 PM--

How good do you think the San Francisco 49ers receivers and running backs groups will be in 2021? Pro Football Focus weighed in, ranking each group across the 32 NFL teams.

We'll start with the highest-ranked of the two groups — the receivers. Pro Football Focus has the 49ers collection of wideouts listed at No. 7. Much of that is due to the potential of the team's trio of playmakers — Deebo Samuel, Brandon Aiyuk, and tight end George Kittle.

"The 49ers have built a dangerous group of playmakers; it's just a matter of keeping everyone on the field this season," wrote Steve Palazzolo. "Deebo Samuel has been used everywhere in this offense. He excels on 'space' plays, as he's averaged 9.6 yards after the catch per reception in his two years in the league, and he is also adept at working the intermediate route tree when lined up on the outside. Former first-rounder Brandon Aiyuk has similar YAC ability, but he was used in a more traditional role last season on his way to an 80.8 receiving grade, second-best among rookies."

Behind those two wideouts are options full of potential but still waiting to prove their worth. Travis Benjamin brings good speed to the offense, taking over the Marquise Goodwin role the team once tried to utilize. Richie James Jr. can create big plays, but his sample size is limited. Who can forget his nine-catch, 184-yard performance last season against the Green Bay Packers that featured his only trip into the end zone of the season? However, James had just 210 receiving yards on 14 receptions over the next seven games.

"Former third-rounder Jalen Hurd is a wild card after he showed early promise during the preseason as a rookie, but he's yet to take a regular-season snap," Palazzolo added.

Kittle has to be in the conversation for the best tight end in the NFL. Most 49ers fans will vote for Kittle, who is just as good a blocker as a receiver. The All-Pro may have Palazzolo's vote, too.

"George Kittle is the league's best all-around option at tight end; he's one of the few options who can run block effectively in-line while keeping defenses off balance with his route-running and after-the-catch ability," wrote Palazzolo. "Kittle has graded at 84.0 or better in each of the last three seasons, including an incredible 94.4 grade in 2019."

Around the NFC West, the Los Angeles Rams came in at No. 8, the Seattle Seahawks at No. 10, and the Arizona Cardinals at No. 17.

The 49ers running backs didn't rank as high when compared to other teams around the NFL. While the group boasted the No. 2 ranked rushing attack in 2019, it fell to No. 15 in 2020, thanks largely to the excessive number of injuries that impacted the roster.

Pro Football Focus has the 49ers running back unit ranked at No. 18.

"Injuries to Raheem Mostert in 2020 put a damper on what was another impressive showing when he was healthy and on the field," wrote Ben Linsey. "Mostert is one of the fastest running backs in the NFL and an ideal fit in a Kyle Shanahan scheme that prioritizes big plays in the run game. Mostert has put up rushing grades of 77.0 or higher in each of the past two seasons."

Behind Mostert are Wayne Gallman, JaMycal Hasty, and rookies Trey Sermon and Elijah Mitchell competing for the remaining roster spots. Jeff Wilson Jr. was re-signed in the offseason but suffered a torn meniscus and will miss the start of the season.

"It's also worth noting Kyle Juszczyk here as one of the few high-usage fullbacks remaining in the NFL," Linsey added. "His 3,383 offensive snaps since 2014 are over twice as many as the next closest fullback, and his 79.8 offensive grade over that stretch falls behind only Anthony Sherman at the position."

Around the NFC West, the Seahawks came in at No. 16, the Rams at No. 23, and the Cardinals at No. 28.

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