The purpose of this is to rank the QB, RB, TE, WR, OL, DL, LB, CB, S, and specialists in order from worst (least confidence at this point) to best (most confidence). This doesnt look like something thats been done here on the site, but please redirect me to a thread that I might have missed. Note: this doesn't include the special team coverage/return units, since thats a position in flux at the moment and the players from these units all come from other positions. Feel free to chime in with your own renditions of the list...
I guess its a testament to the strengths at other positions that QB is in the cellar. This could either remain at 10 next season or easily jump into the top 5. The team has given Smith everything needed to succeed (top of the line skill players, a new OL, continuity with the O-coordinator) and its up to him to show if he can finally put it all together now that there are no excuses to fall back on. Carr is nothing more than a capable backup, and hopefully N. Davis undergoes the same transformation that V. Davis went through after being publicly lambasted by Coach Sing.
There is certainly depth here by virtue of keeping 5 as opposed to 4, but the big question is who will step up and start for Lewis if he cannot make it through a full season. Reggie Smith seems like he was groomed to be more of a center field free safety rather than an in-the-box run stopper and Mays may need a yr of development like RJF received last season. However I am excited to see Smith, Mays, and Curtis Taylor used in special teams this season.
I wanted to rank this lower, but one of the most underrated developments of last season is Shawntae Spencer's emergence into a #1 CB. He thrived while Clements was out, and im confident that Clements will be better able to handle being the #2 guy and covering #2 or slot receivers. Between Brown, Will James, and the two rookies, I'd like to think that the depth is there, but the true litmus test for that will be week 2 vs. NO.
Again, this is a position that I would like to rank higher at season's end, but first we have to endure the growing pains, i.e. penalties and blown assignments, of having two rookie OL start the season. Even if they thrive, the key question mark is Chilo Rachal, who may lose his spot to Baas or Heitmann by midseason. Liking the depth with Snyder/Wragge/Boone/Sims, as this year unlike previous years they are purely relegated to being backups.
Justin Smith is the definition of dependability, Franklin/RJF represent a good transitioning at NT, and Ray McDonald has embraced his role as a 3rd down pass rusher and FG block threar on special teams. That leaves Sopowaga as the biggest question mark here, as he needs to stop getting knocked down on 1st/2nd downs. I expect Evans to rotate with him on rushing downs, and for hopefully someone like Will Tukuafu or a draft pick to learn from Cowboy and start alongside him next season.
To think, not too long ago we had we had receivers like Jonnie Morton and Ashley Leile, and just last year our WR1 was Issac Bruce. This year, we said goodbye to Arnaz Battle (who was actually a solid over-the-middle possession receiver) and legitimately talented guys like Brandon Jones and Jason Hill. There are no weak links in the 5 guys we've kept, and although theyre only as good as their QB play they must also work on their dropped balls.
Jennings is Jennings. Lee is Lee. Hopefully Nedney can still be Nedney, at least for one more season.
We finally got the pro bowl season we wanted out of VD, though it couldve been a lot more mammoth with a few less dropped balls. Delanie Walker seems to be that safety net that Alex Smith has condifence in when he needs 8-10 yards, and is one of the longest tenured Niners so hopefully he emerges as a locker room presence. Byham must have shown a lot more than Bear Pascoe if he earned a roster spot amidst this season's talented bunch of guys.
What more do you want? Pro Bowler in Gore who cant wait to get our there and hit and impressed us all in his brief preseason appearance. Ironically enough, the injuries throughout his career may have kept Westbrook's mileage low, and despite the age he should have enough in the tank to be a change of pace and a 3rd down back, or split carries with Dixon during the 2nd half of a huge blowout :-). Dixon looks like he can be groomed for 2-3 years (look at the kind of teachers he can learn from) and step in if Gore hits the proverbial wall at age 29/30.
To be honest I was debating between LB and RB at the #1 spot, but hearing Willis passionately talk about hitting the QB on 49ers Total Access last night clinched it for me. We have prototypical Mike and Ted ILBs, and drafted one for depth that can eventually take over for TKO. Our ILBs quietly contributed to the team having the 4th most sacks in the league last season, with Lawson finally emerging as someone who has an outside shot at a Pro Bowl. Depth should keep everyone fresh at ILB, and should also elevate the play of Harlyson as Brooks and Laboy are now legitimate threats to his starting job.