We’ve asked six writers to answer five burning questions for the upcoming season on the San Francisco 49ers. The reigning NFC Champions fell just short of winning last year’s title, but the franchise hopes its rising star at quarterback will lead the 49ers to their first Super Bowl victory since 1994.
Now, here are five questions and the responses from our writers:
1. How confident are you, from 0-100, that Colin Kaepernick’s career will resemble his blazing beginning during nine regular season starts and one playoff run?
Baily Deeter: 95. Kaepernick’s career will definitely represent his blazing start. He can make all the throws; he’s a capable runner, and he’ll only get better with experience. Barring injuries, he could become a Hall of Famer.
Cole Kundich: 90. Kaepernick is something the NFL has never seen; with his ability to run the ball or throw from the pocket he forces defenses to pick their poison. Critics claim running will get him hurt, but if you watch, Kaepernick never takes the big hit, and he’ll be a Top 5 QB soon.
Maggie Pilloton: 80. A fast learner with a high football IQ, Kaepernick has enormous potential and great instincts. He’s got tremendous athletic ability and a strong, accurate arm, the only reason I’m not more confident is because of the possibility of injury.
Ian Kaufman: 85. He’s already demonstrated his pure speed and quality decision-making. Kaepernick understands when to hand the ball off, keep it or pitch it in the option, and his size leaves him less susceptible to a damaging hit than other scrambling quarterbacks.
Aaron Candelaria: 25 at best. He still has problems throwing guys open, but gets away with it because he throws bullets and can fit it into tight windows. If he continues to rely on his running ability he’ll end up injured like Michael Vick and RG3.
Turron Davenport: 92. He’s a rare talent, able to pass effectively from the pocket and very dangerous running with it. He knows how to run, how to pass and has a great support system.
2. Besides Anquan Boldin and Vernon Davis, who will consistently make catches in the absence of Michael Crabtree?
Bailey Deeter: Quinton Patton. He impressed in the preseason and already has chemistry with Kaepernick. The two should hook up on some deep passes this year.
Cole Kundich: Patton had an impressive preseason. Vance McDonald and Garrett Celek will make you forget Delanie Walker, and when Manningham and Crabtree come back, look out.
Maggie Pilloton: Patton. Even though he’s a rookie wide receiver, he was impressive in preseason and will get many opportunities to show off his game with Crabtree out.
Ian Kaufman: Rookie Vance McDonald. The 49ers often run double TE sets, and if the 6’4” Rice product proves his hands, he’s a large target that will become a regular option.
Aaron Candelaria: I don’t know if there will be any one person per se. Rookies like Quinton Patton and Vance McDonald have showed good things early, and if Kyle Williams is finally going to break out, this has to be the year.
Turron Davenport: Vance McDonald. I predict he will have 30 – 40 catches and 4 TDs
3. Who is 2013’s Most Important 49er and why?
Bailey Deeter: Kaepernick. A good defense can shut down Frank Gore and Colt McCoy. The 49ers defense has all around depth, it can get by without any one player.
Cole Kundich: Kaepernick, and it’s not even close. I don’t want to see Colt McCoy run the offense.
Maggie Pilloton: Kaepernick. It may be the obvious answer, but I simply don’t trust McCoy to run this offense effectively if Kaepernick goes down with an injury.
Ian Kaufman: Justin Smith. His absence due to his partially torn triceps tendon hurt the whole defense, especially Aldon Smith. Justin’s
strength and drive on the line clogs up running lanes, occupies additional blockers, and frees up the pass rush. Justin Smith sets the tone for this entire defense.
Aaron Candelaria: Justin Smith. The defense and pass rush (especially Aldon Smith) were just not the same when Justin didn’t play. And, when the pass rush struggles so does the secondary. I mean c’mon, the guy was All-Pro at both defensive end and defensive tackle in the same season.
Turron Davenport: Easily Colin Kaepernick. He changes the way teams defend the 49ers. His running ability and his capability to throw the ball to every part of the field makes teams defend every single blade of grass.
4. This is the last season at Candlestick Park. Does it matter to you or the team that the San Francisco 49ers are moving to Santa Clara in 2014?
Bailey Deeter: It does. Other than proximity, it’s great to see the 49ers getting a new stadium reflective of the culture change and the winning ways. It will be great to see a Super Bowl in Santa Clara, too.
Cole Kundich: From the 1989 World Series Earthquake to “The Catch”, it was the home to a lot of historic moments. The new stadium is going to be the best in all of sports, and you can count on the 49ers giving a proper farewell to “The Stick”.
Maggie Pilloton: I understand that the 49ers needed a new stadium, but, honestly, I’m pretty annoyed and sad that they’re leaving San Francisco.
Ian Kaufman: No, the Santa Clara stadium is built to sustainably integrate into the surrounding area with much better access and traffic conditions. I hoped for a sponsorship by Google or Apple; but I suppose Levi Strauss & Co. represents historic San Francisco.
Aaron Candelaria: No, not at all. There are plenty of sports teams who don’t play in the city they’re named for.
Turron Davenport: It does matter to me. I love the history of Candlestick Park. Over the past two years, I have learned a lot of new, neat things about the stadium. San Jose airport will need to get their flights expanded because they currently don’t have enough.
5. Three one word answers: A) Will the 49ers win the NFC West? B) Will the 49ers return to the Super Bowl? C) How many games will the 49ers win during the regular season?
Bailey Deeter: A) Yes B) Yes C) 13 games.
Cole Kundich: A) Yes B) Yes C) 11 games
Maggie Pilloton: A) Yes B) Yes C) 11 games
Ian Kaufman: A) Yes B) Yes C) 12 games
Aaron Candelaria: A) Yes B) No C) 12 games
Turron Davenport: A) Yes B) Yes C) 12 games