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State of the 2024 San Francisco 49ers: Super Bowl remains tantalizingly within reach

Where does your squad stand ahead of the 2024 NFL season? Adam Rank sets the table by providing a State of the Franchise look at all 32 teams, zeroing in on the new faces to know, one significant fantasy spin and the stakes at play in the campaign to come.

Members of the 49ers organization, 49ers fans around the world and those who have started to grow tired of Patrick Mahomes before it's become cool ...

The 49ers are still one of the best teams in the NFC, maybe even all of the NFL, held back by just one thing, or, to the point, one player: Mahomes, who improved to 2-0 against them in Super Bowls at the conclusion of the 2023 season. Don't listen to anyone who suggests the window of opportunity is closing for this group, which I believe is poised to make another run this season.

2024 brain trust

Table inside Article
Head coach Kyle Shanahan
General manager John Lynch
Defensive coordinator Nick Sorensen
Special teams coordinator Brian Schneider

Roster reshuffling

Below is a rundown of the 49ers' most notable roster developments for the 2024 season, including this year's draft class, as well as key acquisitions and departures via free agency and trade.

Table inside Article
Draft class (round-pick) Key additions Key departures
Ricky Pearsall, WR, Florida (1-31) Joshua Dobbs, QB Sam Darnold, QB
Renardo Green, CB, Florida State (2-64) Leonard Floyd, Edge Ray-Ray McCloud, WR
Dominick Puni, OG, Kansas (3-86) Yetur Gross-Matos, Edge Clelin Ferrell, Edge
Malik Mustapha, S, Wake Forest (4-124) Maliek Collins, DT Randy Gregory, Edge
Isaac Guerendo, RB, Louisville (4-129) Jordan Elliott, DT Chase Young, Edge
Jacob Cowing, WR, Arizona (4-135) LB De'Vondre Campbell Arik Armstead, DL
Jarrett Kingston, OT, USC (6-215) CB Isaac Yiadom Javon Kinlaw, DL
Tatum Bethune, LB, Florida State (7-251) Isaiah Oliver, CB
Tashaun Gipson, S

New faces to know

Leonard Floyd
Edge · Year 9

With three of the six players who logged at least three sacks for them in 2023 (Arik Armstead, Clelin Ferrell and Javon Hargrave) departing this offseason, the 49ers needed some help with the pass rush. Though the 31-year-old Floyd technically qualifies as a "new face to know," he's actually something of a familiar face, having spent three seasons (2020-22) in the NFC West with the Rams, racking up 29 sacks in that period (two of which came in his most recent game against the Niners, in Week 8 of 2022). Last season with Buffalo, Floyd reached double digits in sacks (10.5) for the second time in his career.

Ricky Pearsall
WR · Rookie

The Niners have yet to give Brandon Aiyuk the extension he's been seeking. Pearsall provides a little bit of insurance for the passing attack in case the situation with Aiyuk gets sticky. Even if Aiyuk settles in for the season (see my fantasy hot take below to learn what I think will happen) and Pearsall ends up sharing targets with him and Deebo Samuel, there's reason to think the rookie will have an impact. Pearsall racked up 1,027 scrimmage yards (15.1 yards per touch) for the Florida Gators last season. 

State of the QB

  • What does Brock Purdy have to do to get your respect? In his five full playoff appearances (not counting his injury-shortened showing in the 2022 NFC title match), the 49ers are 4-1, and they've scored an average of 28 points. Since 2022, when he first entered the NFL, he's led the league in quarterback winning percentage (.778), passing yards per attempt (9.1), TD-to-INT ratio (48:14) and passer rating (108.1) (including playoffs). So can we stop making Purdy talk about being a so-called "" now? He was a finalist for MVP! Forget about asking whether Purdy is a top-10 QB, even; I'm thinking more about how high he ranks within the top 10.
  • The chatter around Purdy reminds me a lot of the doubts faced by another quarterback early in his career, someone who went on to win a ton and, in fact, was recently roasted at the Forum -- yes, I'm talking about Julian Edelman (who played quarterback in college). OK, I know it's somewhat ridiculous to compare Purdy and Tom Brady. But it's equally ridiculous to doubt Purdy's legitimacy as a star.

Most important non-QB

Christian McCaffrey
RB · Year 8

There is no reason to over-think this. McCaffrey has averaged 115.4 scrimmage yards per game throughout his career. In 2023, he led the NFL in touches (339), scrimmage yards (2,023) -- including a career-high 1,459 rushing yards -- and scrimmage touchdowns (21). The most incredible part of McCaffrey's time with San Francisco has been his durability. In his final two full seasons with the Panthers, in 2020 and '21, McCaffrey was out for a combined 23 games. Since being traded to the Niners at the 2022 deadline, he's missed just one game due to injury.

My HOTTEST 49ers fantasy take:

I'm IN on Brandon Aiyuk.

I expect many to fade Aiyuk as fantasy drafts get going, especially if his contract situation is still unsettled, but also because of the presence of Pearsall. The thing is, Aiyuk has become Purdy's top target, the QB's go-to guy. Aiyuk's average depth of target increased in 2023, according to Pro Football Focus, and he was strong in fantasy points per route run. Don't be shocked if he's drafted like a top-15 fantasy receiver but ends up being a top-10 guy.

2024 roadmap

Three key dates:

For 2024 to be a success, the 49ers MUST:

A) Win the Super Bowl
B) Make a playoff run
C) Earn a playoff berth
D) Finish above .500
E) Show progress

My answer: A) Win the Super Bowl. The 49ers have been close the past couple of seasons -- which is something no fan needs to be reminded of. I don't believe the 49ers are regressing or anything like that, but there are teams that are starting to get a little bit better, including the Lions, who nearly kept them from making it to the Super Bowl last season. I'm not suggesting by any stretch of the imagination that Kyle Shanahan is in danger of losing his job if the 49ers don't win it all this season. I do think he understands the assignment, knowing that the franchise has won five Lombardi Trophies but none since 1994.

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