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ESPN releases its 2024 projections for the 49ers

Marc Adams
Jul 2, 2024 at 1:19 PM



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Will QB Brock Purdy regress in 2024? How about RB Christian McCaffrey or WR Brandon Aiyuk? How many sacks will edge rushers Nick Bosa and Leonard Floyd have?

ESPN's Mike Clay released a PDF of his projections for each NFL team, including the San Francisco 49ers. It's always interesting to take a look at these and see what the national media is thinking about the team. Here are 10 highlights:

1. Brock Purdy will take a step back, at least statistically.


Last season, Purdy passed for 4280 yards. He had 31 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. Clay has Purdy slightly worse in 2024, passing for 3899 yards, with 24 touchdowns and 11 interceptions in 2024. It's possible that Purdy can be down a little this year, statistically, and still have a better season than he did a year ago.

2. Christian McCaffrey will have another big season.


Will McCaffrey top his 2023 season? Not according to Clay, but he'll come close, rushing for 1243 yards and 12 touchdowns, while catching 67 passes for 527 yards and four touchdowns. Those numbers aren't too far off from last season for the reigning Offensive Player of the Year.

3. Brandon Aiyuk and Deebo Samuel will be about the same statistically.


Clay has Aiyuk having a down year (75 catches for 1068 yards), compared to his 2023 season (75 catches for 1342 yards). But Clay has Samuel around the same production as in 2023, with 62 catches for 924 yards compared to his 60 catches for 892 yards in 2023. Clay has Samuel with less rushing yardage in 2024 and fewer attempts.

4. WR Ricky Pearsall will outperform WR Jauan Jennings.


Perhaps the biggest surprise is that Clay has rookie WR Ricky Pearsall with 29 catches for 385 yards, and three touchdowns, while Jennings will have 15 catches for 196 yards and one touchdown. Last season, Jennings had 19 catches for 265 yards and one touchdown, but he played at a much higher level in the playoffs.

5. WR Jacob Cowing won't make an impact as a rookie.


For those fans who believe rookie WR Jacob Cowing is going to be dynamic right out of the gate, Clay doesn't agree. He has Cowing with only three catches for 38 yards. He has WR Danny Gray at two catches for 19 yards, and WR Ronnie Bell with no catches, no yards.

6. Isaac Guerendo and Ronnie Bell will be the leading returners.


Clay has rookie RB Isaac Guerendo as the team's leading kick returner, which is not surprising due to the new kickoff rule. And he has Bell being the team's top punt returner (gulp!). Let's hope the last one doesn't come true.

7. Nick Bosa will barely have double-digit sacks.


Another surprise is that Clay has Bosa with only 10 sacks in 2024, down a half of a sack from last year. Also, Clay has Floyd with only 7.5 sacks, down three from last season. So he's projecting the two to have only 17.5 sacks combined. The 49ers better hope those two produce more than 17.5 sacks among them.

Clay projects the 49ers will have 43 sacks on the season as a team. In 2023, they sacked opposing quarterbacks 48 times.

8. LB Dre Greenlaw will be healthy at some point.


Despite Dre Greenlaw's Achilles injury during the Super Bowl, Clay has him playing 509 snaps (compared to 848 last season), and making 73 tackles. Last year, the former Arkansas Razorback had 120 tackles. Clay also has De'Vondre Campbell with 73 tackles, while Fred Warner leads the way with 144.

9. CB Ambry Thomas will play ahead of the younger corners.


This will surely rile up the 49ers fanbase, but Clay has Ambry Thomas playing 534 snaps, compared to Renardo Green (224), Isaac Yiadom (160), and Rock Ya-Sin (32). He doesn't even list Darrell Luter, Jr. or Samuel Womack. I can't envision Thomas playing that much, and I hope I'm right.

10. The 49ers will get to 12 wins, and be ranked first in the NFL.


Clay believes the 49ers will have another outstanding regular season, with 12.4 projected wins. What happens beyond the regular season? We'll have to wait and see, but Clay has the 49ers' offense ranked fifth overall, and the defense listed as fourth in the NFL. The team's overall ranking is set at number two.

So what did you agree with? Which projections do you not agree with?

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