The keys to success in the NFL:
1. Elite Pass Rush
2. Elite QB
3. Elite Offensive Line
The 49ers, when both Smith brothers are healthy on defense, have an elite pass rush. It can arguably be stated that Colin Kaepernick played at an elite level for his 10 starts last year (while, yes, it does remain to be seen whether he can perform like that over the course of an entire season).
Following that, the 49ers, according to RotoWorld, had the 4th-highest rated offensive line at the end of last season. They are projected (by RotoWorld) to have the best offensive line this year, mainly because they are generally able to maintain their health and play together really well as a unit.
Here is my take on the offensive line as they stand right now:
LT Joe Staley: Great
LG Mike Iupati: Elite
C Jonathan Goodwin: Average
RG Alex Boone: Great
RT Anthony Davis: Slightly Above Average
I found it surprising that they locked up Anthony Davis earlier this year before having signed Mike Iupati to an extended contract. While I think that Joe Staley is a great player, an excellent leader, and overall a really good left tackle, I don't think of him as being elite because there are four other players in the league at his position that I would rather have. (Namely, Joe Thomas of the Browns, Duane Brown of the Texans, Ryan Clady of the Broncos, and Matt Kalil of the Vikings) Those rankings are purely a matter of opinion, and I fully expect most of Niners Nation to disagree with me.
On the other hand, there are no other guards that I would rather have than Mike Iupati. An argument can be made for Marshal Yanda of the Ravens, but I would still rather have Iupati, who has started every game in his career and played hurt for a lot of last season.
To me, if you take Anthony Davis and put him on a marginal offensive line, then Anthony Davis becomes a marginal offensive tackle. However, if you play him on a great offensive line, he becomes a great tackle.
In contrast, Mike Iupati will play at an elite level REGARDLESS of who he is playing with or next to. I firmly believe that he is one of the best, if not THE best, at his position in the game today. It might be said that good guards are a dime-a-dozen, and perhaps that is true, but ELITE guards are not. In order to continue their success, the 49ers must re-sign Mike Iupati.
I would assume that the hold-up with his contract is just this point: That he believes that he is an elite guard and wants elite guard money, whereas the FO is trying to get him to take a bit of a pay-cut in order to lend flexibility to their cap figure. I can see both sides of the issue, but I think that, here, Iupati's elite ability will win out and he will get a nice, fat contract because he really IS an elite guard.
(Takes deep breath) OK, I am ready to be eviscerated by comments about how wrong I am now.
Thanks for reading.