Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

11 Apr 2013

State of the Team: San Francisco 49ers

by Andy Benoit

The 2013 "State of the Team" articles will run daily through the NFL draft. These offer a snapshot look at a team’s roster, with players classified by color based on how they fit their role. My analysis is based on film study, not statistics, although we will try to note when my judgment differs significantly from FO's advanced stats, and explain a little bit why. Starters are in bold, and you will notice that most units are listed with 12 starters rather than just 11. This denotes the extra playing time that nickelbacks and third receivers usually get in today's NFL.

Color Legend:

  • Star
  • Good
  • Adequate
  • Jury’s still out
  • Just a guy
  • Upgrade needed
  • No longer on the team

Some players colored pink as "just a guy" are younger low-round picks who just haven't seen much playing time, but keep in mind that 99 percent of the time, there’s a negative reason why such a player has rarely seen the field.

Players colored red as "upgrade needed" are not necessarily bad players. Sometimes, this simply means the player is a decent backup who should not be starting.

Since I generally don't do analysis on special teams, those categorizations are based strictly on FO stats, with any comments written by Aaron Schatz. We're only listing kickers and punters, as most teams go into training camp without specific players set as return specialists.

Click here for an archive of all State of the Team articles.

OFFENSE

OVERVIEW

In a lot of ways, the 49ers revolutionized NFL offense last season. It wasn’t just the read-option. Before Colin Kaepernick exploded on the scene, Jim Harbaugh and coordinator Greg Roman were building a tremendously creative power run game, featuring a high volume of formation wrinkles, presnap shifts and misdirection motion. It was perhaps the most diverse ground game the post-90s NFL has seen. Adding the dynamic Kaepernick made it borderline unstoppable.

Moving forward, the Niners are in great shape long-term. But the immediate future may include a slight step back, as the losses of Randy Moss and Delanie Walker deprive this offense of its top vertical threat and its most versatile all-around player. Talent-wise, the addition of Anquan Boldin offsets both departures. But style-wise, Boldin doesn’t offer Moss' straight-line speed or Walker’s run-blocking. That puts a dent in a lot of San Francisco’s passing designs.

BACKFIELD

QB: Colin Kaepernick, Colt McCoy; Lost: Alex Smith

RB: Frank Gore, Kendall Hunter, LaMichael James, Bruce Miller (FB)

Anyone can see that Kaepernick has a bright future. In order to fully maximize it, he must become mentally quicker, particularly before the snap. It also wouldn’t hurt for him to tighten up his mechanics just a bit. Gore will be 30 next month, but so far shows few signs of slowing down. He has great short-area balance, timing and burst. Hunter is a better outside runner than Gore. He was supposed to vie for more carries last season but injuries plus Gore’s somewhat unexpected resurgence changed that. James will have a niche in this offense because he’s the only runner equipped to thrive out of single-back formations.

RECEIVERS

WR: Michael Crabtree, Anquan Boldin, Mario Manningham, A.J. Jenkins, Kyle Williams; Lost: Randy Moss

TE: Vernon Davis, Garrett Celek; Lost: Delanie Walker

Crabtree has blossomed into a very fine possession receiver. He has great hands and body control. Boldin is a less fluid but equally effective version of Crabtree. Manningham is coming off a late-December ACL injury. This, plus the departure of Moss, makes Jenkins’ development all the more crucial. So far, the 2012 first-rounder’s career is off to an uninspiring start. Davis is an athletic freak but somewhat limited route runner. He benefits from playing in a system that prioritizes getting him matched one-on-one against linebackers and strong safeties (he’d like a little more touches in the system, though).

OFFENSIVE LINE

LT: Joe Staley LG: Mike Iupati C: Jonathan Goodwin RG: Alex Boone RT: Anthony Davis

Backups: G Joe Looney, C Daniel Kilgore; Lost: Leonard Davis

Staley and Iupati form a tremendous tandem -- one that’s only getting better, too. Iupati, in particular, is on the cusp of greatness, he just needs to be become a more consistent week-to-week player. Goodwin is an effective power pusher by center standards. Boone has improved his mobility just enough to be a serviceable starter on a line built around size. Davis is a very good run-blocker who has done a decent job sharpening his once-awful pass-blocking mechanics.

DEFENSE

OVERVIEW

The Niners are a talented, fundamentally sound group that can beat teams with simple two-man coverage behind a quality four-man pass-rush. It’s not a straight four-man rush; a lot of it comes off stunts and twists, with an occasional lurk-blitz element mixed in. Coordinator Vic Fangio has a good understanding of how offensive coaches approach the game. More importantly, he has the resources to act on this understanding. The question is, Can those resources hold up just a tad better down the stretch this season than they did last season?

DEFENSIVE LINE

DE: Justin Smith, Ray McDonald, Glenn Dorsey, Tony Jerod-Eddie; Lost: Ricky Jean-Francois

DT: Ian Williams, Lamar Divens; Lost: Isaac Sopoaga

As everyone saw last December (and, to some degree, in the postseason), this is a vastly inferior defense when Justin Smith is unavailable. His destructiveness against double-teams propels the entire front seven. On the other side, McDonald is an outstanding player in his own right. He can’t clog two gaps quite like Smith, but he’s a very good penetrator. Dorsey will likely always be thought of as a bust, but he’s a great fit as a backup 5-technique. Nose tackle is somewhat of a concern, as Williams is a mystery and the depth behind him is nonexistent. However, unlike most 3-4’s, nose tackle is not a vital position for the Niners as long as their ends are at full strength. The back seven is strong enough to clean up a lot of messes on its own.

LINEBACKERS

OLB: Aldon Smith, Ahmad Brooks, Parys Haralson, Cam Johnson

ILB: Patrick Willis, NaVorro Bowman, Dan Skuta; Lost: Larry Grant

The colors tell the story here. Willis and Bowman are easily the best inside linebacker tandem in the NFL (and perhaps one of the best all-time). Their ability to cover tight ends and running backs man-to-man is one of the leading factors that make this defense great. Aldon Smith’s decline during Justin Smith’s injury shouldn’t overshadow the broader point that the third-year pro is one of the league’s best edge players against both the run and pass. Finally, it’s felonious how underappreciated Brooks is. He’s San Francisco’s best all-around athlete and most versatile weapon.

SECONDARY

CB: Carlos Rogers, Nnamdi Asomugha, Tarell Brown, Chris Culliver, Perrish Cox

S: Donte Whitner, Craig Dahl, C.J. Spillman; Lost: Dashon Goldson

This was a fine cornerback group last season, but even with constant double safety help, it was not quite talented enough to sustain physical man coverage for long durations (most cornerback groups can’t). This was revealed down the stretch when San Francisco’s pass rush declined. The hope is the addition of Asomugha can change things. He’s looking to regain his status as an elite boundary press-corner after two disappointing years in Philadelphia. There isn’t a system his skills fit better than this one, which is why I have him colored green despite his poor play with the Eagles. The flip side of that, and the argument for making him black or even worse, is that even when the Eagles stopped screwing around with him and let him play traditional man coverage, he still struggled too often.

Even with Asomugha’s arrival, the loss of Goldson will hurt –- mainly in run defense, where he was a missile downhill. His replacement, Dahl, is a classic JAG (just a guy). Whitner is still a missile, but two missiles are always better than one.

SPECIAL TEAMS

K: Phil Dawson; P: Andy Lee; Lost: David Akers

Don’t get overexcited by Dawson's strong field-goal numbers in 2012; he's your typical inconsistent kicker and is mediocre on kickoffs. Lee has never finished below the top six in FO's gross punt value metric.

Follow @Andy_Benoit

e-mail andy@footballoutsiders.com

Posted by: Andy Benoit on 11 Apr 2013

59 comments, Last at 15 Apr 2013, 6:58pm by LionInAZ

Comments

1
by theslothook :: Thu, 04/11/2013 - 3:55pm

There are so many points here that disagree with. Again, friendly disagreement - Beginning a the top. Gore is not a star. He was considered an overrated player last year and behind the best o line in football - he looks good(amazing).

Speaking of the o line, given Andy's generosity - Stayley and Iupatti should absolutely be stars, as should crabtree at this point IMO. He's not just a possession receiver - I think hes pretty good all around, except for maybe not being a great deep threat.

Finally - Ahmad brooks to me is the consummate bit player. Good in that system with those players - but not especially powerful on his own. And I'm a bit miffed how the 49ers pass rush can fall of a cliff with one Smith's injury(ok maybe 2 with Aldon) when it has all these stars. I'm not going to insinuate more than that because I don't think we have enough evidence to explain it, but it does make for an interesting discussion.

25
by CBPodge :: Fri, 04/12/2013 - 7:33am

I think the problem is the lack of defintion of what constitutes a "star". I think Iupati and Staley are good players, and guys who you can basically say "right, that position is taken care of for the next 5 years", but I don't think they are the kinds of guys you build a team around, like you might with a Joe Thomas or Carl Nicks (as far as you can ever build around an O-lineman!). I think the same with Crabtree - he's not a guy you build your WR around to complement, he's a guy who complements the rest of your WR corps.

Ditto with Brooks. He's not a guy you'd ever have as a building block for a team. He's a very nice guy to have, because he does everything quite well, but he doesn't really do anything well enough to be considered a star. That being said, he can be relied on to win his one-on-one matchups, and given that his role, with the presence of the other linebackers, is basically just to win his one on one matchups, I can see an argument that he's a star for that role.

26
by CBPodge :: Fri, 04/12/2013 - 7:34am

Double post.

56
by LionInAZ :: Sun, 04/14/2013 - 12:20am

I think the real question here is "What makes an OL a great unit?", and the answer is probably "You don't need a bunch of stars, just 5 average or better guys who work well together."

2
by Yaguar :: Thu, 04/11/2013 - 4:01pm

If we truly believe all the colors here, then San Francisco is the greatest roster ever assembled, including the 1994 49ers, the 2007 Patriots, the 1995 Cowboys, and the 2001 Rams.

I think they're quite good, but I have my doubts that all of the players are quite worth the individual accolades they're getting. Collectively, they look like just an ordinary Super Bowl contender.

4
by Perfundle :: Thu, 04/11/2013 - 4:27pm

"If we truly believe all the colors here, then San Francisco is the greatest roster ever assembled, including the 1994 49ers, the 2007 Patriots, the 1995 Cowboys, and the 2001 Rams."

Not really. First, there are varying degrees of blue, as can be easily seen with Flacco and Rodgers. Second, I would imagine the colors are relative to their peers in this era, so that a blue player here might not be blue ten years ago.

Finally, it's very possible that Seattle is going to one-up them when their article is posted.

Also... I think people consider them a cut above the average Super Bowl contender. Green Bay is an ordinary Super Bowl contender. The latest Super Bowl odds that I saw put San Francisco and Seattle as co-favorites. These two, along with Denver, have the fewest holes of the contenders, which is why they're getting so much praise, here and in Vegas.

3
by PirateFreedom :: Thu, 04/11/2013 - 4:26pm

Re: 94 Niners

None. None so blue.

11
by bravehoptoad :: Thu, 04/11/2013 - 5:55pm

If we truly believe all the colors here, then San Francisco is the greatest roster ever assembled, including the 1994 49ers, the 2007 Patriots, the 1995 Cowboys, and the 2001 Rams.

Can't see this is true. Benoit tends to give high scores...his Pittsburgh rankings have 6 blues and 5 greens...his Baltimore rankings give 7 blues and 5 greens, and that's after they lost half their starting defense. SF's 7 blues and 10 greens don't seem crazy compared to that.

I do think he overestimates SF's secondary. Asomougha should be black, or orange if you're feeling optimistic, and Whitner was terrible in coverage last year.

If I had to vote for who he underestimates, it would be Boone. That guy was good last year.

5
by Southern Philly :: Thu, 04/11/2013 - 4:40pm

Asomugha as "good"? No, he can't run anymore. Can he play better than he did in Philly? Possibly, going from incompetent coaching to excellent coaching and not having the worst set of safeties in the league behind him will certainly help. But at the end of the day, he doesn't have any wheels. It wouldn't be at all surprising if he doesn't make it out of camp.

6
by cisforcookie (not verified) :: Thu, 04/11/2013 - 5:30pm

so many of these articles, and I say this not as a criticism of the articles but merely as an observation, depend heavily on assumptions for which there is little real support.

maybe nmamdi will suck, maybe he'll get better. we really don't know. maybe justin smith is going to experience age-related decline. maybe carlos rogers and frank gore experience age related decline. maybe aldon smith and ahmad brooks aren't actually all that good. maybe colin kaepernick was a one-hit wonder and everyone will figure him out. maybe jenkins and manningham are out of football in a year. or maybe none of those things are true and the 9ers stomp their way to 19-0.

12
by Perfundle :: Thu, 04/11/2013 - 5:59pm

"so many of these articles, and I say this not as a criticism of the articles but merely as an observation, depend heavily on assumptions for which there is little real support."

What kind of support do you want, beyond observational evidence of their play and historical trends of age-related decline? Of course practically any player could play at any level next year. It seems that the author is choosing what he thinks as the most likely level of play given the circumstances. Would you prefer a bell curve function detailing the probabilities of each player attaining each of the colors instead?

36
by cisforcookie (not verified) :: Fri, 04/12/2013 - 2:13pm

as I said, i wasn't trying to criticize the author. I was more responding to the comments above where people were bickering over whether certain players were as good as or bad as rated.

7
by Wikitorix (not verified) :: Thu, 04/11/2013 - 5:38pm

Davis is an athletic freak but somewhat limited route runner. He benefits from playing in a system that prioritizes getting him matched one-on-one against linebackers and strong safeties

Unless that safety is Kam Chancellor

8
by bravehoptoad :: Thu, 04/11/2013 - 5:41pm

A lot of these pinks sould be orange. No team in the league plays its backups less than the 49ers have lately. Cam Johnson, Ian Williams, Kilgore and Looney have barely seen the field. Where's the analysis coming from to make them JAGs?

On the DL, Jerod-Eddie and Divens are further down the depth chart than Tukuafu and Dobbs, who aren't mentioned. Just two more oranges, in any case.

33
by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Fri, 04/12/2013 - 11:28am

If they weren't JAGs, the 49ers wouldn't play their backups less than any other team.

35
by Karl Cuba :: Fri, 04/12/2013 - 11:56am

On the offensive line, seriously?

57
by LionInAZ :: Sun, 04/14/2013 - 12:25am

The OL, no, but the DL, definitvely yes.

39
by bravehoptoad :: Fri, 04/12/2013 - 2:45pm

Seems specious to assign ability by deductive reasoning. Aren't these articles supposed to be scouting reports?

9
by nweb74 (not verified) :: Thu, 04/11/2013 - 5:47pm

On the LBs, Smith and Willis are clear Blue chippers, but Bowman is a green aided by playing next to a guy with a shot at being an all-time top 10 M/ILB. And honestly, Brooks is athletic, but he's a black. I can think of 20 LBs I'd take over him.

I'm interested in, at the end, what happens when we stack rank by position by clor, will it make sense? I'm afraid I think it won't. Thank god Timmons was a blue or Bowmans ranking would've made me lose my mind.

also, I know it seems not in keeping with the tune here but isn't Nmandi the consummate Jury Still Out, was it as scheme mismatch or is he done. I honestly feel he could, used correctly, have a couple very good Charles Woodson type years, or, he may not make it out of camp.

10
by bravehoptoad :: Thu, 04/11/2013 - 5:53pm

What's the basis for valuing Willis so far over Bowman? I haven't seen anyone making that claim. Bowman usually has more tackles and defeats, but Willis draws coverage duties more often.

13
by DisplacedPackerFan :: Thu, 04/11/2013 - 6:11pm

And Bowman stayed on the field and they pulled Willis on the rare occasions they brought in two extra DBs. Bowman played 1003 (95%) defensive snaps and Willis played 986 (93%). The difference is small, which has a lot to do with the 9ers pretty much having a defense and sticking to it. Their other LB's Brooks 976 (92%) and Smith 1003 (95%) played most every snap too. Most of their starters have a really high percentage of total snaps.

Based on the charting stats on this site, Bowman was involved in more pass plays in 2011 than Willis was too. I don't think it's true that Willis has more coverage duties either. Don't have 2012 numbers up on here yet.

I'm thinking the knock on Bowman is history bias for Willis. Bowman is a stud and I agree with many of the assessments that I see that put him a bit above Willis now. So I'm with you, seeing someone claim Bowman was over rated is odd for me. Bowman and Willis are both studs and they both make the other look better. Yes we have 3 years of data showing Willis was excellent, and we have no real data for Bowman without Willis. I understand that, but if I could take one of them to add to the Packers, I'd take Bowman, and sure some of that is him being 3 years younger, and I would be ecstatic to get Willis too, it's a slim margin.

15
by Karl Cuba :: Thu, 04/11/2013 - 6:36pm

Fangio has said that Willis and Bowman alternate who comes out by series, the TV coverage made a big thing because Willis coming off the field was more of a story.

Charting stats can be opaque, a player who is involved in more plays could simply be being targeted more. In terms of their responsibilities, Willis has been asked to take tight ends while Bowman takes backs most of the time.

But I think you and Mr Toad are correct, they are both really fine linebackers. Personally I still think that Willis is a hair better, he is slightly more assignment sound and his solid fundamentals mean he hardly ever misses a tackle and that gives him a slight edge.

16
by theslothook :: Thu, 04/11/2013 - 7:08pm

Pff as do FO chart their presence of the field. Bowman plays more, especially when its obvious dime. I also charted SF's game against Ne, they had bowman in direct man coverage more so than Willis. That could be just one game, but it was interesting to take note of.

18
by Dave R (not verified) :: Thu, 04/11/2013 - 8:38pm

In the Dime Willis and Bowman trade off series. Some of that difference is Willis is better in coverage, making his Dime series take fewer plays before the D gets a stop.

22
by CK (not verified) :: Fri, 04/12/2013 - 1:50am

His basis is not having watched Bowman play since college. Otherwise he'd know better.

20
by syedsufyan (not verified) :: Thu, 04/11/2013 - 8:54pm

Really? Bowman is probably the second-best ILB in the league and it mostly doesn't have to do with Willis. There were a lot of times Willis sat out but Bowman still played outstanding.

40
by wr (not verified) :: Fri, 04/12/2013 - 2:58pm

This is all true unless Bowman asks Hal to open the pod bay doors.

14
by Karl Cuba :: Thu, 04/11/2013 - 6:27pm

Asomugha is a might be green at best, I doubt he's even that because his charting stats began to decline in his last year in Oakland. If there was a colour between green and black I think I'd assign it to Rogers, Culliver, and Brown and I'm not sure that Brown and Culliver weren't the better players, at least until Culliver fell to bits in the Superbowl (there's also a train of thought among quite a lot of 49er fans that Brown had a bad game against Julio Jones, if Ryan is going to make a perfect throw then a great receiver like Jones is going to male plays on almost any cornerback). Cox is a pink/purple (no idea I'm colourblind).

I don't think Gore is blue, he used to be back when the Niners let him down by failing to give him enough help but he's green nowadays. However, I'd make LaMichael James and a healthy Kendall Hunter green too, the Niners are very deep there. I'm also a huge Bruce Miller fan but if I call for him to be green I'll be accused of being too biased.

As others have said, there can't really be much evidence that Kilgore and Looney deserve to be pink, they haven't had the chance to play because of he quality players in front of them, perhaps they should be orange? Demarcus Dobbs and Will Tukuafu are both ahead of Eddie and Ian Williams. I've never heard of Lamar Divens.

Ben Muth said that Staley was the best all round tackle last year, he should be blue and Anthony Davis and Alex Boone should be Green. Davis is one of he best right tackles in the league (it's a very thin position leaguewide) and Boone's emergence was one of the keys for the Niners last year as he was the final piece of a great line.

The problem for the Niners is that their starting nose tackle and free safety is in the draft, which is a huge amount of uncertainty. They will also need to find a second tight end/H-back, which is a key part of their offense. They are also unlikely to have the injury luck they have enjoyed over the past two years.

17
by Jimmy Oz :: Thu, 04/11/2013 - 7:59pm

Does anyone else see Asomugha as a possible free safety, or have i been playing too much Madden?

27
by CBPodge :: Fri, 04/12/2013 - 7:38am

Yes. What his time in Philly showed is that he can do one thing really well (playing press man on the outside), but that's about it. Oddly, it seems that Oakland's coaching staff knew this and actually used a player exactly as he should be used. I know, Oakland, doing something good. It shocks me too.

Given that free safety is mostly zone, and will never play press man, it'd basically be pointless playing him there. You want him outside, playing man-on-man with a guy, and then let your defence play 10-on-10 with the rest of the team.

38
by Harris :: Fri, 04/12/2013 - 2:30pm

He's not that good at pressing anymore, he can't run, can't play the ball and won't tackle. But he's great at blaming teammates and charming reporters.

31
by Southern Philly :: Fri, 04/12/2013 - 10:42am

Way too much Madden. In his first year Juan Castillo tried to alternate Asomugha and Asante Samuel as a free safety whenever the opposition only had 1 WR on the field.

It got torn to shreds, because teams attacked Asomugha and Samuel.

30
by Karl Cuba :: Fri, 04/12/2013 - 8:41am

Urgh, look at that post. Why is it so difficult to type anything coherent on a damn tablet?

And there is no way that Asomugha would move to safety, he's done if he can't get his hands on the receiver. They might move Culliver there, he played safety in college.

41
by Sakic (not verified) :: Fri, 04/12/2013 - 3:01pm

Staley is an absolute beast of a left tackle and I'd take him on my team over anybody else in the league with the exception of maybe Joe Thomas (and one would be nitpicking to try and pin point which one is better.) Watching him grimace in pain on the sidleines and then completely shut down the Packer pass rush on his side in the playoff game made me a believer.

43
by theslothook :: Fri, 04/12/2013 - 3:37pm

A lot of this depends on scheme of course. In general, I'd probably take thomas and duane brown over staley. If I were running a pass first type of offense - I'd rather have Clady. But yah, staley deserves to be called a star.

51
by Silm (not verified) :: Sat, 04/13/2013 - 3:08am

that last point is a great point. The 49ers have been otherworldly healthy 2 seasons now. Yet, i question if the super bowl is even a close game if Ngata didn't get knocked out of the game; meanwhile it seemed like the 49ers hadnt lost a single person. They had a few banged up players but they still played. will be interesting to see how they hold up if they hit the injury bug in 2013

52
by Karl Cuba :: Sat, 04/13/2013 - 5:19pm

Of course we should only count Baltimore's injuries, it's actually not a problem for your two best linemen to be playing with one arm.

I haven't the numbers to hand but the Niners defense has ranked in the top five for AGL in three out of the past four years. They would have counted as 'regressing' this year if the Smiths hadn't gutted their way through injury, if either of those two went down the AGL would have shot up because four of their backups were injured.

19
by syedsufyan (not verified) :: Thu, 04/11/2013 - 8:50pm

I think everyone on the 49ers o-line should be a blue besides Goodwin who should be a green or black. They have the best and everyone is in the top 3 at their spot besides Goodwin. However, one bad thing about them is that their starting safety is probably going to be from the draft, making the position much more uncertain. Also their nose tackle.

21
by Perfundle :: Fri, 04/12/2013 - 1:14am

An o-line with four blues would not have the fourth-worst adjusted sack rate.

23
by theslothook :: Fri, 04/12/2013 - 2:09am

Qb dependence on sack rate...

28
by Karl Cuba :: Fri, 04/12/2013 - 8:34am

Kaepernick took sacks at half the rate that Smith did and when you consider that young passers tend to take more sacks I think there is cause to think they were at least an average pass blocking unit, together with their their awesome run blocking.

34
by Perfundle :: Fri, 04/12/2013 - 11:50am

They threw the exact same number of times in the regular season and Kaepernick was sacked 16 times to Smith's 24, so more than half, I'd say. It's also hard to say with only half-season sample sizes.

In any case, I'm not claiming that they actually were fourth-worst at pass blocking, since playing Arizona and St. Louis twice a year is going to make most teams' sack rate pretty high. My point to the original poster was that no o-line that gives up that many sacks, regardless of the competition and QB, can be said to have at least four star players.

37
by coremill :: Fri, 04/12/2013 - 2:13pm

The 49ers' high sack rate is a direct result of a deliberate strategic choice to take more sacks and commit fewer turnovers. The 49er QBs are coached to take sacks when under pressure rather than chuck off-balance passes into tight coverage. That continued even after the Smith/Kaepernick switch.

50
by Silm (not verified) :: Sat, 04/13/2013 - 3:04am

lmao, there isn't 5 rational people in the world that would agree Anthony Davis is top 3 at his position

53
by Karl Cuba :: Sat, 04/13/2013 - 5:22pm

OK, can you give a list of three right tackles that were indisputably better last year? I think you'll struggle.

And it's there "aren't" five rational people.

55
by theslothook :: Sat, 04/13/2013 - 6:58pm

Just off memory and general feel - I would say Andre Smith(at least pff thinks so) and sabastian Volmer. The rest I think are more dicey.

24
by that man (not verified) :: Fri, 04/12/2013 - 3:34am

Aldon smith had a torn labrum in his shoulder the last 5 games of the season. That contributed just as much to his decline in production as J Smith's injury. trying to toss fat lineman around with a torn labrum must have hurt like hell.
I would almost put Asomugha in the "Jury is still out" based on scheme. He obviously wasn't suited for a zone defense in Philly and his awful play reflected that. If he is put back on the right side of the field in man coverage, maybe he regains some form.
I think Staley should be blue based on his tremendous run blocking.
Dawson is just a guy. An old guy at that. You guys are always railing about how kickers are replaceable-hence making them all "just a guy".

29
by Hacksaw (not verified) :: Fri, 04/12/2013 - 8:40am

Don't be abashed. This is one of the most talented rosters of all time. It is carefully orchestrated by its coaches to bring out each player's strengths. Gore is elite in vision balance and burst. He is the best blocking RB in NFL. Kap is a special talent. His passes have elite velocity, and he hits receivers in stride, often in very small windows. Add his incredible speed(Against GB, he was covering 5 yd's for every 4 yd's of pursuing DBs), and his coachability and coaches and you have an emerging star. V Davis is a monster receiver although underutilized, and possibly the best blocking TE in football. Crabtree and Boldin are pro bowl types. Some experts rate the OL as best in the league. All the starters are ProBowl quality.

When healthy this has been one of NFLs top rated defenses for the past 2 years. They crush the run consistently. Have a LB corps that is drawing "All Time" consideration. Justin Smith is sublime, but maybe in decline. They have pro bowlers in the secondary, although falter with an injured pass rush. Harbaugh and his staff are among the best in the league, And, given his age, fast start, and previous college history, may turn into the winningest coach of all time.

No the 9ers are not Hall of Fame yet, but they have something special going on, and other teams are already trying to follow their lead.

44
by theslothook :: Fri, 04/12/2013 - 3:42pm

I think you're going way overboard here. What makes you say Gore is the best blocking rb in football? I don't know any stats to back up that claim and I'm pretty sure you haven't watched every other team's rbs to cross compare. I also think gore is massively overrated(not everyone can run behind this monster of an o line).

You're also way overrating Vernon Davis. Productive yes, but Gronk is by far the better player - both as a receiver and a blocker(though their receiving skillsets are a bit different).

I still feel like people ignore how often perceptions change. Not that the 49ers are headed toward some big decline or are a mirage necessarily, but lets take a recent stroll down memory lane of some of the other "loaded teams."

2006 Chargers were loaded - until they weren't.

2007 Dallas was loaded until they weren't.

2010 Packers looked like the most loaded roster over the last decade - with stars across the team. Now they look like a version of the 2000 colts.

32
by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Fri, 04/12/2013 - 11:24am

"The question is, Can those resources hold up just a tad better down the stretch this season than they did last season?"

How much healthier do you want the 49ers defense to be? They've been historically healthy for two seasons in a row already!

42
by Sakic (not verified) :: Fri, 04/12/2013 - 3:04pm

"How much healthier do you want the 49ers defense to be? They've been historically healthy for two seasons in a row already!"

What he really meant to say is he doesn't want Justin Smith to get hurt again.

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by Silm (not verified) :: Sat, 04/13/2013 - 2:57am

yeah its commonly forgotten than the 49ers have been generally healthy two season in a row now. Sure Justin was beat up but its not like he couldnt play like say Lardarius Webb or Gronkowski. I fear for the 49ers when those injuries regress to the mean.

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by Alex (not verified) :: Fri, 04/12/2013 - 6:09pm

Kaepernick is just 'Good' eh? In what universe? Jury's out or star. Those are the two options.

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by Anonymous49 (not verified) :: Fri, 04/12/2013 - 8:34pm

A first-year starter can be proclaimed star, only if he is top-5 in a few critical categories, like most interceptions thrown, highest adjusted interception %age or being sacked the most. Rate stats like yards per pass, QB rating, QBR are more or less meaningless to actual performance.

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by Alex (not verified) :: Fri, 04/12/2013 - 6:28pm

Also -

Whitner is good in the box. Among the worst in the league in coverage. I don't think that qualifies as a 'good' player.

Terrell Brown is a good CB. Culliver was a great CB until the SB. One game isn't enough to erase 2 years of good play in my view, but some people tend to be more emotional and less rational.

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by Silm (not verified) :: Sat, 04/13/2013 - 2:56am

Calling Willis and Bowman the best LB tandem of all time is completely absurd and premature at this juncture. Willis drafted in 2006 and Bowman in 2010 a mere 3 years ago, please. They were so good they were one of the worst teams in the NFL in 2010.

Then they gave up a boatload of points in the playoffs, luckily Kap scored 45 for them against GB and bailed them out of the ATL game before getting owned in the Super Bowl.

When they put up stats like the 85 bears or 2000 Ravens did in holding opponents to 160 points in a season and win a super bowl with defense, then lets talk.

I thought Benoit was better than this but maybe he's just being kind to Tuccitto

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by The Rational one (not verified) :: Sat, 04/13/2013 - 6:30pm

The problem with this series of articles and subsequent commenter arguments is that this whole color coding process assumes that all players are uniform in scheme and coaching. For example Benoit coded Jacob Tamme and Vernon Davis as green. Despite the fact they are same color code they would be completely out of place if they up and swapped teams. Vernon is a ferocious blocker with freakish straight line speed who gets open by being faster. He is a poor route runner and has mediocre hands. he would be a poor fit in Denvers offense. Tamme on the other hand has very good hands, is an excellent route runner, but is a poor blocker and lacks high level athletic gifts. The 49ers coaching staff wouldn't even look at him as an option because he does fit what they do.

The applies to the 49ers offense line rankings as well. If you were to grade them as run blockers, which is primary to their scheme, they would all be blue. If you were to rate them as pass blockers, which is secondary in their scheme, they would all be black or maybe even red in the case of Iupati. Staley who might be green.

The point is that these rankings and coding act as if there is a universal scheme all teams run and everybody needs to be judged by that pre-set standard. It's the same problem I have PFF. Who are they to grade film? I like what they do and think it's a positive thing for the football community, but there is beginning to be an over reliance on their work in the media. They do not know what a players responsibility was on a given play, nor do they know what play was called and where each player was supposed to do, or how each player is designed to fit in a given scheme.

In the end beauty is in the eye of the scheme.

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by Perfundle :: Mon, 04/15/2013 - 4:38pm

"The point is that these rankings and coding act as if there is a universal scheme all teams run and everybody needs to be judged by that pre-set standard."

Um, I don't see any evidence of that. How else to explain that Asomugha is green on the sole basis of the scheme fit?

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by LionInAZ :: Mon, 04/15/2013 - 6:58pm

Agreed. There aren't 32 schemes out there competing for players. There are only two or three basic D schemes with minor variatuons.