How stacked are the San Francisco 49ers for this upcoming season? Are they more loaded than most playoff teams from a season ago following their run to the conference title game?
The downside: The 49ers are nowhere near the top 10 in complete roster makeshift by Pro Football Focus — as PFF labeled them the No. 13 ranked roster in their rankings that were unveiled on Thursday, June 30.
The upside: Placing inside the top 14 means they do have a playoff-caliber roster…and a roster that makes them better than four playoff teams from 2021.
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The Teams the 49ers Ranked Ahead of
Ben Linsey helped comprise the NFL roster rankings for each team for the national analytics website.
Which teams did the 49ers place ahead of? One is a team that was eliminated by the ‘Niners and another is a team S.F. will face on New Year’s Day. Here’s who the ‘Niners ranked ahead of:
Dallas: The Cowboys take No. 16 overall, with PFF sighting defensive line concerns for the Cowboys as the reason behind the placement. Linsey and PFF also believes Dallas didn’t do much to address their run defense woes from a year ago.
New England: The Patriots claimed 18th. Safety depth is one strength at Foxboro, but cornerback is the area of concern which gets PFF believing the Pats will switch to more of a zone scheme for 2022 — after being a man coverage team for so long.
Tennessee: Last season’s top seed in the AFC fell to No. 20 by PFF. Like the Patriots, safety is a strength. But wide receiver is a major question mark after losing Julio Jones to free agency and A.J. Brown to a mega trade during the NFL Draft.
Las Vegas: The Raiders enter this season with Super Bowl hype following the blockbuster additions of Davante Adams and Chandler Jones, but fall to 21st by PFF. The offensive line is the big question mark.
Now we get into what factors played into the 49ers’ 13th spot.
Strengths, Weaknesses & ‘X-Factor’
No surprise, the defensive trenches is strength No. 1 that was mentioned by Linsey and PFF.
“The 49ers have one of the best defensive linemen (Nick Bosa) and one of the deepest defensive line rotations in the league,” Linsey wrote. “Bosa’s 90.6 PFF grade across his two healthy seasons in 2019 and 2021 ranks third among all qualifying edge rushers since 2019, behind only Myles Garrett and T.J. Watt. And San Francisco can turn to Arik Armstead, Javon Kinlaw, Samson Ebukam, Charles Omenihu, Kerry Hyder Jr., Kemoko Turay and second-round rookie Drake Jackson alongside Bosa. Defensive coordinator Demeco Ryans isn’t lacking options.”
But what about the other side of the trenches? That’s where Linsey and PFF believe the 49ers’ top weakness lies.
“San Francisco’s interior offensive line will have to replace Laken Tomlinson at left guard after he followed Robert Saleh to the Jets in free agency. Alex Mack’s retirement after 13 NFL seasons opens up another hole at center,” Linsey said. “Given that right guard — manned by Daniel Brunskill and his 57.1 PFF grade in 2021 — was already the weak point of their offensive line last season, that’s three potential unknowns and question marks on the inside.”
And now comes the “X-factor:” An incoming starter already dealing with lofty expectations in the Bay Area — and league wide.
“It’s difficult to go anywhere else here other than Trey Lance, who is expected to take the reins from Jimmy Garoppolo whether or not the 49ers are able to work out a Garoppolo trade prior to the season,” Linsey said. “Lance saw limited action with just two starts as a rookie last season, managing just a 59.9 PFF grade in 179 offensive snaps. The floor is lowered with Lance compared to a Garoppolo-led offense, but there’s also reason to be excited about what the offense could look like with Lance’s arm talent and rushing ability.”
There you have it, the 13th best roster belongs to the 49ers. And if they want the top spot, they’ll have to out-perform the Buffalo Bills — who were labeled having the NFL’s best overall roster for this season.