Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

Injuries a concern for 49ers in ESPN’s offensive arsenals ranking

Jul 20, 2021 at 6:44 AM--

"San Francisco should be healthier on the whole in 2021, although it's impossible to project anybody on its roster to play all 17 games with any sort of confidence," wrote ESPN's Bill Barnwell in a recent feature for ESPN.

The writer was tasked with ranking the NFL offensive weapons for all 32 NFL teams. Perched at the top of the list are the Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers. At the bottom, as is the case with most rankings, are the Houston Texans.

The San Francisco 49ers dealt with a historic number of injuries last season. Not only was it the most in the league, but it was also the second-most injured over the past two decades. Only the 2016 Chicago Bears had their players miss more combined games in a single season.

While Barnwell ranks the 49ers at No. 12 on his list, a six-spot jump from last year and a 12-spot jump from two years ago, obviously, there is some concern surrounding San Francisco's ability to remain healthy through a now-17-game season.

"The only skill-position player to start 12 games for them last season was fullback Kyle Juszczyk," wrote Barnwell. "Tight end George Kittle and hyper-efficient running back Raheem Mostert made it through only eight games each, while 2020 breakout candidate Deebo Samuel managed seven. Rookie Brandon Aiyuk, who averaged more than 62 receiving yards per game while catching passes from backups for most of the year, missed four games. Jalen Hurd, a second-round pick in 2019, missed his second consecutive season, this time with a torn ACL. Tavon Austin and Jordan Reed joined the team and almost immediately went down injured themselves. It just wasn't meant to be for the 49ers last season."

Head coach Kyle Shanahan and company are hoping this year will be different. The team already lost running back Jeff Wilson Jr. and safety Tarvarius Moore for much of the season. Offensive lineman Justin Skule will miss all of 2021 with a torn ACL. San Francisco hopes those injuries aren't a sign of things to come.

The team should get back some key players. In addition to those named above, quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo and pass rusher Nick Bosa's availability could significantly boost both sides of the football. However, Barnwell's ranking focuses on offensive weapons.

"As explosive as Mostert and Samuel can be, the real differentiator the Niners have on offense getting them into the top 12 is Kittle, who is the league's best tight end when he's on form," wrote Barnwell. "Travis Kelce and Darren Waller are better pure receivers, but Kittle makes up the gap by being a (much) better blocker than either player. This team was able to field a functional rushing attack last season with just about anybody in its backfield, but there's no replacing Kittle."

As for the rest of the NFC West, the Seattle Seahawks come in at No. 8, the Los Angeles Rams come in at No. 10, and the Arizona Cardinals at No. 18.

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