I made this fanpost because I wanted to see what people here at NN think of Dashon Goldson, and hopefully with an open forum of discussion we can come to a conclusion. Goldson seems to be a bit of a polarizing player. I've heard an seen opinions of his ability ranging from, "He's an up and coming stud who we need to get locked up to an extension right now" to, " He was a huge hole in coverage and the Niners need to find a replacement immediately", which is a much wider range of opinions than you here with most players.
What piques my interest most when it comes to Goldson is his terrible rating at Pro Football Focus. Out of the 86 safeites who played at least 25% of their teams' snaps, PFF rates Goldson 82nd (meaning he was the 6th worse safety in the NFL among qualifying players). This is just one source of data of course, and because their methods are not completely transparent I think some skepticism is fair, but such a terrible opinion of Goldson's play from a seemingly unbiased source does merit more investigation. A further look shows that Goldson has a positive rating against the run (+2.4, which would rank him 22nd amongst qualifiers) but he actually has the worst pass coverage rating of any safety in the NFL (-14.8). While I do think the deep pass was a problem for the Niners defense all year, it was still surprising to see Goldson this low.
His pass coverage stats do not seem to back up such a low rating. he was thrown at 52 times (5th among safeties) which is a lot, but also played the 2nd most snaps of any safety, which makes the plethora of attempts a bit less alarming. The completion percentage on passes thrown at Goldson was 65.5%, which was only the 32nd highest among safeties. His YPA (12.9) and QB rating (78.8) on passes thrown at him were both middle of the pack, ranking 33rd and 40th respectively. The one thing I did find was that Goldson had 13 missed tackles, 6th most among safeties, and 9 of those came on passing plays, so perhaps that drove his ranking way down. PFF wrote articles about each team's biggest offeseason need after the season ended, and for the Niners they picked safety because of Goldson (and Michael Lewis') poor pass coverage ratings, and here's wat they said about Goldson):
...Most disastrous is the safety pairing of Dashon Goldson and Michael Lewis. Both were strong in run defense but lacking in coverage last season. Goldson in particular failed to grasp the chance he was given to entrench himself as a starter. Giving him a second season while hoping for improvement would be very risky. He was among the leaders in missed tackles at the safety position with 13 (tied with Louis Delmas and Laron Landry for sixth-most). Nine of those came on pass plays, interestingly enough. Goldson may improve, but his performance in 2009 may have been too poor to risk a repeat performance when there are options out there to provide immediate upgrade.
The 49ers got their other starting safety, Lewis, from a team in the state of Pennsylvania and until 2009 had received strong returns from the former Eagle. The 49ers will need to once again analyze the free agent class for upgrades at the safety position...
This quite clearly doesn't jive with many Niners fans' opinions of Lewis, as it seems many think he's an up an coming starter. I wonder how much of that has to do with Goldson's 4 interceptions this year. While he certainly deserves credit for getting them, stats with such small sample sizes tend to have a lot of variance from year to yaer, and I'm not sure if Goldson deserves the ball-hawk label that I've heard some tag him with after just one year. However, I do also think there are some people who side with PFF to some extent because of the prevalence of Eric Berry in mock drafts here. If Berry was drafted by the Niners he would be replacing Goldson, although Goldson could potentially slide over and play strong safety instead of Michael Lewis. He did have a lot of missed tackles but since most of those were on passing plays, perhaps he just has a tougher time with smaller, quicker receivers rather than running backs.
Anyway, I just wanted to try to get a clearer grasp on what people think Goldson's abilities are. Is he a liability or an asset right now? Does he still have lots of untapped potential or is he just not really good enough to be a starter in the NFL? If he can't start at free safety, would you consider him a potential starter at strong safety or is Michael Lewis (or someone else) likely to be better than him for the forseeable future?