The villains lurk among the 49ers’ upcoming 17 opponents.
Yes, high-profile quarterbacks are on the list, as are other offensive playmates. There are also familiar defensive enemies.
These 10 hitmen should be on the 49ers’ minds when they report to camp next week to prepare for the upcoming season. Here are 10 to keep an eye on:
1. Russell Wilson (Seattle Seahawks)
After controversy broke out in Seattle this off-season over a potential trade, Wilson remains at NFC West. He’s 15-4 against the 49ers at all times.
2. Aaron Donald (Los Angeles Rams)
49ers Faithful thinks Donald can be easily offset, whether through play calls from Kyle Shanahan or through overachieving blocking by Daniel Brunskill & Co. Reminder: He has won the NFL Defensive Player of the Year three of the last four years.
3. Aaron Rodgers (Green Bay Packers)
Is he even playing in 2021 – for the Packers? If so, he could spoil the 49ers’ home opener on Sunday night, September 26 if he appears in NFL MVP form.
4. Budda Baker (Arizona Cardinals)
Baker has hurt George Kittel over the past two years. The 49ers face the Cardinals’ hard-hitting security twice before mid-season. #KeepGeorgeHealthy
5. Derrick Henry (Tennessee Titans)
The NFL’s two-time reigning champion could play a key role in this December 23 matchup as the playoff picture comes to mind.
6. DeAndre Hopkins (Arizona Cardinals)
Of all the great wide receivers on this season’s schedule – Davante Adams (Packers), DK Metcalf (Seahawks), Julio Jones (Titans) – Hopkins could be key to a division-rattling upset (see: For 151 yards in 2020) 14 catches early win 49ers).
7. DeForest Buckner (Indianapolis Colts)
Buckner got a big payout by the Colts after a March 2020 trade, but will he take any hard on the 49ers for not rewarding himself?
8. Matthew Stafford (Los Angeles Rams)
A career revival may be in store now that Stafford has fled Detroit. Kyle Shanahan definitely wanted him. Tune in on November 15 for a primer on the season-closing rematch on January 9.
9. Khalil Mack (Chicago Bears)
Sure, most people would like to see that there are rookie quarterbacks Trey Lance (49ers) and Justin Fields (Bears) at this Halloween game in Chicago, but Mack could be the big difference maker (70.5 sacks in seven seasons).
10. Jamal Adams (Seattle Seahawks)
After 9-and-a-half sacks in 12 games last season when he joined Seattle, Adams will be on the 49ers’ radar in their final game before a Week 6 bye, which provides the window for a quarterback change.