49ers 2011 Roster Confidence, Left Tackle: Joe Staley And Injury Concerns

Here we see Joe Staley lifting and threatening Anthony Dixon, telling him that if he does not stop dancing, he will face the consequences. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

At times, I've seen Joe Staley both grossly overrated and seriously underrated here on Niners Nation. As the starting left tackle on an offensive line that is less than stellar, you're bound to get an awful lot of flack. I've seen people put him in the top ten of left tackles in the NFL, which is an overstatement, but I've also seen people put him in the bottom five, and that is underrating him highly. Good left tackles aren't exactly easy to come by in the NFL, and Staley is here to stay in San Francisco. That is to say, he's here to stay if he doesn't suffer any more crippling injuries. As I've often said, there is nothing more frustrating than to consistently see a player's name on an injury report, especially when you know that player can play at a particularly high level. 

They get a pass the first time that happens to them, when they head off to injured reserve. I mean, folks aren't about to write-off Scott McKillop after calling him our special teams ace because he went on injured reserve, right? Of course not, he gets another year before we start waving the injury flag. But Joe Staley has already reached that point, he's now been on injured reserve two times in his four years on the team. Technically, he was only on injured reserve once, but in 2009 and 2010, he missed the same amount of games, going down nine games into the season and missing the remaining seven. 

I suppose the plus-side is that the injuries appear to be unrelated, and unavoidable incidents that could happen to any player, but we'll never know at this point. So to me, without being able to know, I can only look at the fact that Staley has missed fourteen games over the last two seasons and that creates a caveat to my ability to rate him higher. Personally, I love Joe Staley and I think his talent level ranges from "slightly above average" to "beastly." That's right, my informed, scouted opinion is "beastly."

Middle ground is appropriate in regards to Staley, he's not the best and he's not the worst, though I don't think I can think of sixteen left tackles (for you slower readers [Tre9er], that's half of the starting left tackles in the league) who I would rank as better than him, so he's not in the bottom half of the league, even if we have to put him at fifteen. He's young, he's strong, and he's got the potential to improve, if only the injuries don't continue and his body holds up. The 49ers have him signed through like the year 2070 or something like that, so that's good, too.

Voting a '10' implies that you have no injury concerns, and that Staley will play a very high level of football, something maybe a little less than Pro Bowl-level. Let's call '7' something like ... you're not concerned with his injuries, they could have happened to anybody, and you think he will be an above-average starter. A '5' implies that he will be a good starter, probably without injury concerns. Anything below that is varying degrees of being afraid of his injuries and potentially just not being impressed with him at all.

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