The San Fransisco 49ers will enter the 2020 season fresh off a disappointing Super Bowl LIV loss but nonetheless, should be viewed as contenders going forward.
The Niners were able to improve from 4-12 in 2018 to 13-3 this past season due to several breakout players.
However, there’s always room for improvement and the 49ers should see a new group of guys take their games to the next level.
3. Jalen Hurd
It feels a bit odd to tab a player as a potential breakout candidate when they haven’t played a single regular-season game yet in their careers. Nonetheless, second-year wideout Jalen Hurd has the chance to be just that in 2020.
A third-round pick out of Baylor in 2019, Hurd played well in the 2019 preseason notching two receiving touchdowns in just two games but a back fracture would force him to miss his entire rookie season.
With Emmanuel Sanders gone, look for the 6-foot-4, 227-pound receiver to make an impact for the 49ers.
2. Jerick McKinnon
Having not played a game in the last two seasons, many have forgotten that 28-year-old running back Jerick McKinnon can be a great complimentary piece or even a fill-in starter when needed.
Yes, McKinnon returns to a crowded 49ers backfield that includes the likes of Tevin Coleman, Raheem Mostert and Jeff Wilson Jr. but the team has thrived on using multiple running backs and making the most of their depth at the position.
San Fransisco signed the former Minnesota Viking to a four-year, $30 million contract back in 2018 but his deal has now been restructured. Now, McKinnon will be making just $910,000 in 2020 and should enter the season with a chip on his shoulder and a chance to prove himself.
1. D.J. Jones
Both DeForest Buckner and Sheldon Day are now on the Indianapolis Colts. And while the Niners did address the need for a defensive tackle by drafting South Carolina star Javon Kinlaw with the 14th overall pick in April, there’s something to be said about established talent.
Defensive tackle D.J. Jones started all 11 games he appeared in for San Fransisco last season before an ankle sprain forced him on injured reserve. Jones should be healthy going into the 2020 season and seeing as the former Ole Miss product has improved in each of his first three seasons, 2020 could be the year Jones becomes a major impact player.
Last season, Jones put forth 23 tackles, four tackles for a loss, two sacks and a forced fumble. Alongside Kinlaw, Jones could be the benefactor of a breakout season.