Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

7 of 10 ESPN experts predict 49ers reach Super Bowl 58; Trey Lance seen as potential breakout player

Feb 20, 2023 at 9:54 AM--

It's the offseason, which means it's also prediction season for many sports news outlets. That includes ESPN, which released its early picks for Super Bowl 58 participants, league MVPs, and breakout players. Yes, that does seem a bit premature. We still have free agency and the NFL Draft to get through. Those events will reshape the San Francisco 49ers roster and the other 31 NFL squads.

"There is still a lot of change coming, and teams will improve or decline over the coming months," writes ESPN. "NFL free agency officially begins on March 15, roughly six weeks before the league holds the 2023 NFL draft. But as of now, Caesars Sportsbook has the Chiefs (+550) as the favorites for Super Bowl LVIII, followed by the San Francisco 49ers (+600)."

So what do the so-called experts predict for Super Bowl 58? Seven of the 10 analysts, writers, and insiders envision the 49ers representing the NFC in the league title game. However, only one of those seven foresees San Francisco coming out on top once the dust settles on the 2023 NFL season.

ESPN's fantasy football analyst, Stephania Bell, predicts the 49ers to beat the Cincinnati Bengals at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas.

"I thought this would be the Super Bowl LVII matchup, so it's just being deferred a year," wrote Bell. "Both teams have the rosters, coaches, and recent playoff experience to navigate the path to Las Vegas, as long as they can each stay healthy."

Two ESPN analysts predict the Bengals to beat the 49ers. The other four have head coach Kyle Shanahan's squad falling to the Chiefs again.

"I'll simplify this: The Chiefs have the best QB in the league, and the 49ers have the best roster when examining the non-QB players in place," explained Field Yates.

No one predicts the league MVP will come from the 49ers. However, one senior writer, Jason Reid, predicts third-year quarterback Trey Lance as the NFL's breakout player.

"After having multiple surgeries on his right ankle, Lance is expected to be ready for OTAs," wrote Reid. "[QB Brock] Purdy won't be, though, as he recovers from elbow surgery. Assuming the 49ers move on from Garoppolo, the path should be clear for Lance to be the team's Week 1 starter for the second straight season. Let's not forget that the 49ers traded up in the 2021 draft to take Lance third overall. With this roster, Lance could shine."

Reid was one of two ESPN staffers who believe the 49ers are the most interesting team of the offseason. The team's quarterback storyline has intrigued many.

"The 49ers have so much talent and depth, and Shanahan is as good as it gets with the X's and O's," wrote Reid. "If not for Purdy's elbow injury in the NFC Championship Game, the 49ers' season might have ended in Super Bowl LVII. They have uncertainty about only that one position, but if the 49ers get the QB room figured out, watch out."

The other who sees the 49ers as the most interesting team of the offseason is NFL insider Mike Tannenbaum.

"It's all about the quarterback position, because you really can make an argument that any of Garoppolo, Purdy, or Trey Lance should be their starter," wrote Tannenbaum. "Garoppolo is a free agent again, but they brought him back last summer, and he ended up playing after Lance's injury. This is a fascinating situation."


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