The guys over at Pro Football Focus are currently running a series in which they break down a team's current projected lineup based on who is under contract. They categorize each player projected to start by current level of play and potential future level of play. After that, they give some roster notes, break down the 2014 cap situation, and mention some players that could could be cut and some that could be potential risers.
Since these things have been discussed and are being discussed thoroughly around the site already, I decided to make this post more about analyzing or ranking our current players. I don't have access to PFF grades or stats, so I went with my own take on how good each player is. I used their format and did my own breakdown with paint. I cheated by adding Boldin after I heard the news yesterday that a deal is likely to be done.
(Solid color is the category, circle or box around the solid color indicates a potential change in class)
Since it's hard to tell without expanding the image:
Elite potential: Kaepernick, Crabtree, Iupati, Reid
High quality starter potential: Brock, Culliver, Dorsey, Brooks, Boone
Amazing art work, huh? Some details of why I chose what I did on a few players:
Colin Kaepernick: While many might be inclined to put him into the 'high quality starter' category, I thought about all NFL QB's and figured that in comparison, he's a solid starter but one with obvious elite potential.
The o-line: Outside of Staley, Davis was the only player I felt that deserved to be in the 'high quality starter' category as he's the most balanced in terms of being close to great at both run and pass blocking. Iupati didn't have a great season but still has elite potential, same with Boone except with 'high quality starter' potential. Kilgore is an unknown without any playing time, but I'd guess he'll end up in the 'adequate starter' category if he gets the starting job.
Brock/Culliver: I projected them as the starters because it's obvious that Rogers is no longer a starting-quality player. I was extremely close to putting Brock in the 'high quality starter' category, but figured he needs more games to prove himself. Culliver was excellent for most of 2012, but played primarily as a slot corner and has to prove he can play outside and bounce back from injury. Both have tremendous potential.
Ahmad Brooks: Some might put him in the 'high quality starter' category or closer to elite than I did, but I somewhat agree with PFF's sentiment (from the LB breakdown on this site) that penalties really hurt him this past season. He was tremendous in the playoffs, and if he can become more consistent-- and without the penalties-- he's easily a high quality starter.
Vance McDonald: Hurts me to say, but if the team wants more than a solid role player as their 2nd TE, they need to find someone else. McDonald improved as a blocker and could develop into an even better one, but he struggled with things he previously struggled with in college (hands, drops, separation) which makes me believe that this wasn't just a down year for him. For now, he's a below average starter.
Overall, this exercise confirms that this team is in great position for 2014 with 17 guys in the 'solid role player' category or better. Two of the guys in the 'below average starter' category aren't actually starters and could be replaced. The one 'poor starter' has basically zero chance at being the starter come September. Both unknown players have great potential.
Feel free to discuss anything you want related to this below. Tell me where I might be wrong and why. We can discuss potential replacements, but as I said, that's been done pretty thoroughly throughout NN. The potential for certain players is probably the most interesting thing to discuss.