The San Francisco 49ers kicked off their 2018 campaign falling to the Minnesota Vikings, 24-16, on Sunday. Despite the loss, there were several positive takeaways including standout playmakers who impressed in the Week 1 showing. Jeff Deeney of Pro Football Focus provided grades of some of the 49ers top performers. Here’s a look at who impressed against the Vikings.
1. TE George Kittle
Kittle led the 49ers offense with the highest overall grade of 82.2. Despite a missed opportunity on a deep pass from Jimmy Garoppolo, Kittle caught five targets for 90 yards including a 36-yard reception up the left sideline. Kittle put up the second-highest receiving yards of his career on Sunday following a 100-yard performance in the season finale last season against the Los Angeles Rams in Week 17.
2. LB Fred Warner
Warner was one of, if not the biggest, bright spot in the 49ers defense on Sunday. The 49ers starting MIKE linebacker recorded a game-high 12 tackles, the third-highest total in the NFL’s opening weekend thus far (Anthony Hitchens – 15, Luke Kuechly – 13). He added a forced fumble and a pass defended in addition to his five total stops and a quarterback hurry. Warner also allowed just three catches from his five targets for 19 yards in his NFL debut for an 88.7 overall grade.
3. DL Arik Armstead
Armstead made his return after missing 10 games in 2017 due to a hand injury. The 49ers defensive lineman graded well against the run with a 82.8 grade with three run stops.
4. LB Elijah Lee
After spelling Brock Coyle who left the game late in the fourth quarter with a head injury, Lee stepped in and earned the highest overall grade with 90.4. The second year linebacker put up three tackles, all of which resulted in stops, and a hit on Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins that stopped him just short of a crucial first down.
5. CB Akhello Witherspoon
Despite giving up a 22-yard touchdown to Stephon Diggs, Witherspoon earned a solid coverage grade of 77.2. He allowed just one catch on three targets against the Vikings.
Honorable Mention – DL DeForest Buckner
Last season, Buckner totaled three sacks on the year. In the first game of the season, he nearly eclipsed his 2017 sack total with 2.5 on the day against the Vikings for a 70.1 overall grade.
"I'm just more comfortable with the position I'm in,” Buckner said post game. “The coaches are putting me into positions for me to succeed, and I'm taking advantage of that every chance I get."