We'll be looking at various starting scenarios for the 49ers going into 2011 and the confidence that said scenario inspires. I recently finished my Long Look Back, Brief Look Forward pieces and provided a recap of all of them here, so check that out for roster review. Now it's time to look forward, and we'll start with one of the more intriguing prospects for the 49ers going forward: Ricky Jean Francois at nose tackle.
Aubrayo Franklin is a free agent and played the 2010 season on the franchise tag. With the uncertain future of the collective bargaining agreement and free agency as a whole, the 49ers may be without him. Jean Francois made considerable steps in the 2010 offseason and preseason and already seems to have exceeded his draft positioning, as he was taken all the way back in the seventh round.
If Jean Francois never pans out as a starter and has to be a backup, he'll still exceed his draft position. Teams would love to pull seven starters out of every draft, but it just doesn't happen that way, and many saw this pick as
one with very little potential a guy with solid potential but a lot of inconsistency. Considering it was a seventh round pick, expectations could only be so high. He was billed as a defensive end, but Jim Tomsula and Greg Manusky took him and placed him at nose tackle, where he was considerably undersized. Undersized like Aubrayo Franklin, who isn't too shabby of a player, right?
But he's put on muscle and weight, and I imagine that will continue throughout this offseason, providing he finds a place to work out that's not the 49ers facilities. He's a quick learner, and his physical talents tell me that he will be a starter eventually, but the team's change in defensive coordinator can't help his case at all. One has to believe that someone more refined, such as Aubrayo Franklin, would have the advantage in learning a new playbook and new techniques faster.
I'd say he had an excellent preseason in 2010, taking first and second team snaps at nose tackle. Going forward, I am personally confident in his ability, but if I'm the 49ers I still make an effort to sign the 30-year old Franklin for another year or two, or perhaps I draft a guy as early as the third or fourth rounds in a class that's deep in the middle rounds at the position. I just wrote a post at SB Nation Bay Area looking at the 49ers options in the draft at the position, and I would honestly be happy with any of them.
But this post is about your confidence levels in the situation that Ricky Jean Francois is the starter at the beginning of the 2011 season. Can he succeed? The poll options will be listed as percentages, pick the option that best describes the percentage of confidence you have that Ricky Jean Francois will succeed. 10 implies that the 49ers will be improved at the position, while something like 7 implies they will probably not miss a beat. In an earlier poll on Niners Nation, Jean Francois did surprisingly well against Aubrayo Franklin.