Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports


Adam Rank predicts 49ers’ MVP and breakout star in 2021

Jun 21, 2021 at 6:09 AM--


Adam Rank published his San Francisco 49ers State of the Franchise feature for NFL.com, previewing the 2021 season for Kyle Shanahan's squad. No, he didn't predict a three-win season but once again acknowledges the blunder from two years ago.

Rank does make a couple of key predictions while breaking down storylines for the upcoming season. The first is the team MVP, which goes to returning defensive end Nick Bosa, the 49ers' star pass rusher.

Bosa missed most of last season after suffering a torn ACL during Week 2, and it was a loss that was felt throughout the entire injury-plagued 2020 campaign that resulted in just six wins. A season earlier, he was named the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year.

"Bosa was amazing during his rookie season, with 16 tackles for loss, nine sacks, and 25 quarterback pressures," wrote Rank. "A true game-changer right off the bat, he played a crucial role in San Francisco's Super Bowl run."

The 49ers pass rush struggled without its young star. Bosa is on track to be ready for the start of the season, possibly even getting some limited work during training camp. It will be a significant storyline to watch throughout August.

"Now, the 49ers still did alright defensively last year without Bosa," Rank continued. "This isn't a one-man defense. Not even close. But he was the guy who took the defense from good to very good. ... The 49ers had just 126 quarterback pressures in 2020 -- the fourth-fewest in the league -- and allowed a league-worst 3.3 seconds time to hurry (per Next Gen Stats)."

Rank also predicted the Niners' breakout star for the upcoming season — second-year wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk.

"Aiyuk led the team in targets (96), receptions (60), receiving yards (748), and receiving touchdowns (five)," wrote Rank. "He led all rookies in targets per game (8.0) and had the second-highest averages in receptions (5.0) and receiving yards (62.3) per game, behind only Justin Jefferson.

"Now, some people (i.e., fantasy dorks) are afraid that George Kittle and Deebo Samuel being healthy will cut into the second-year pro's target share. OK, but I believe having Kittle and Samuel on the field will open things up for Aiyuk. He's a dynamic playmaker. If this 49ers offense is cooking and fully healthy, Brandon is going to eat."

Click here to read Rank's entire State of the Franchise feature.

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