I like to poke around the various SB Nation football sites to see what's going on in the rest of the NFL world, and more specifically, to drum up ideas for posts. Over at Dawgs by Nature, they had a post discussing a semi-regular feature over at cbs.sportsline.com. Pete Prisco is doing a feature ranking the different offensive and defensive units around the NFL. While it is just as random as the next guy, I was curious to see what he had to say about the 49ers. While he had some positive points, the rankings are not quite so positive, which shouldn't come as much of a surprise. One drawback to his rankings is that he ranked the teams alphabetically, so it requires a little bit of work to clear things up. Rather than consider all the teams, I'll just throw up the NFC West rankings.
Best player: LT Joe Staley. Weak link: C Eric Heitmann.
The skinny: They will move Staley from right tackle to the left side. He played the right side as a rookie, but is more of a left tackle. Look for rookie Chilo Rachal to start at guard, although he has worked some at right tackle. The inside people are average at best. Rookie Cody Wallace could challenge Heitmann.
The OL rankings were published on June 2 and he still has Chilo Rachal slated to potentially start at guard. The end of the OTAs will get that whole G/T business cleared up.
St. Louis: 28
Best player: RE Justin Smith. Weak link: LE Kentwan Balmer or Ron Fields.
The skinny: The 49ers paid a lot for Smith, especially since he had two sacks last season. But they like his toughness. Balmer, the team's first-round pick, should be the starter at the other end spot. Fields will try to fend him off. Nose tackle will be a battle between Aubrayo Franklin and Isaac Sopoaga, who showed well when Franklin was hurt last season. The 49ers need to get more from outside linebacker Manny Lawson, who missed most of last season with an injury. Tully Banta-Cain has quickness on the other side.
Smith has been getting a lot of work at outside linebacker, which would certainly shake this up a little bit. This breakdown was posted today and Prisco is under the impression that Sopoaga will be the nose tackle. And of course there's no mention at all of Ray McDonald, who I see as a sleeper off the bench.
St. Louis: 19
Obviously these are the random rankings of somebody with "insider access." Unfortunately there are enough oversights by Prisco to leave them wide open to questioning. Considering how poorly the units performed at times last year, it's easy to see that carrying over to preseason rankings this year. The offensive line has as much to prove as anybody on this team. The defensive line may take a little time to gell, but I think there is sufficient talent to make them a very interesting unit worth paying attention to going forward.