The 49ers, despite trading up to 3rd overall to draft North Dakota State QB Trey Lance, are sticking with Jimmy Garoppolo to start the season. The decision was made on Thursday, and Lance's recent finger injury may have been a consideration. Jimmy G is both undeniably handsome and injury prone. He's started less than 50% of the 49ers games since his first full season with them in 2018. When healthy, it's fair to view him as an average starter -- his PFF grades the last 3 seasons are 62.6, 77.3, and 67.5, respectively. He tends to miss linebackers and therefore throw the ball directly at them, which will be an interesting storyline given how excellent Lance was at protecting the football in college. He'll have plenty of help around him -- the tackle duo of Mike McGlinchey and Trent Williams is one of the league's best, and LG Laken Tomlinson is coming off a career year. They also brought in C Alex Mack from the Falcons, who gets to be reunited with Kyle Shannahan and will have already been familiar with the system. TE George Kittle along with Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk should give Jimmy plenty of options at receiver, while Raheem Mostert and rookie Trey Sermon will navigate Shannahan's zone run scheme. On defense, the front 7 was a monster in 2019. In 2020, they lost DeForest Buckner to the Colts and Nick Bosa and Dee Ford to injuries, rendering them incapable of getting to the backfield on a consistent basis. I like them to return to form this year now that Bosa and Ford are healthy. The secondary could be an issue, however, with Richard Sherman no longer on the team. That leaves them with Jason Verrett and nobody else at corner. Verrett was a solid contributer last season, but was perpetually injured before that. Deommodore Lenoir, a 5th round rookie out of Orgeon, looks like he'll slide in to start opposite Verett since Emmanuel Moseley is still nursing a knee injury.
The Lions were a part of the one of the bigger stories in the off-season by trading quarterbacks with the Rams. Jared Goff in, Matthew Stafford out. Goff is without question a downgrade from Stafford, but I'm even further nervous given the absence of LT Taylor Decker (out, finger). Goff is notoriously better with a clean pocket, and without Decker the Lions will slide 7th overall selection Penei Sewll from RT to LT and 2019 UDFA Matt Nelson will take over at RT. C Frank Ragnow is entering his 4th season and has improved every year, but there's serious questions at guard. The receiving core also projects to struggle after losing both Kenny Golladay (Giants) and Marvin Jones Jr (Jaguars) in the off-season. Tyrell Williams comes in from the Chargers, and he'll get the start along with 2020 5th rounder Quintez Cephus and slot man Kalif Raymond. The lone reason for optimism is former Mackey award winner TJ Hockenson at tight end. The defense projects to be bad -- like, really bad. DE Trey Flowers is the lone bright spot. CB Jeffrey Okudah was taken 3rd overall in the 2020 draft, and he'll need to improve vastly over his rookie season that saw him get consistently burned. He led all corners last year in yards allowed per snap (2.3).
The 49ers are obviously the much better team. This is the type of bet I'd have a tough time pulling the trigger on, but that's why we use a model instead of my stupid fish brain.