49ers depth chart 2014: PFF raises some questions

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Do the 49ers only have one elite player? Will Daniel Kilgore start? Why isn't there a special category known as "Andy Lee" above the "elite" category that only he gets to be in?

I like to think I know a thing or two about football, and I like to think I have a pretty good handle on which players are good and which players are not good. I don't know that I can assign accurate grades based on these perceptions, but I've been getting along just fine talking about this sport for all of my life at this point. But that doesn't mean I don't appreciate it when someone wants to take a more in-depth or a more scientific look at the game.

There's a wealth of interesting content over at Pro Football Focus that does just that. Individual ratings can be interesting taken at face value (read as a totally subjective opinion that is far from fact), as are game ratings and things of that nature. I think the game recaps, the depth chart previews, underrated and overrated posts and things of that nature are where the real value can be gained.

Last week, the San Francisco 49ers came up in their look at 2014 depth charts, and I think there's a lot of interesting information in there. At face value, it's just interesting to see where everyone ends up starting and how things line up -- Stevie Johnson is the WR3, Daniel Kilgore is the starting center, Jimmie Ward is the starting nickel corner and things of that nature.

It's also interesting that they've sort of incorporated their rankings into the fold. They haven't done this strictly, but they've put everyone into categories: elite, high quality, good starter, average starter, below average starter, poor starter, not enough information and rookie. And I'll go ahead and just get this out of the way right now: they have the 49ers as having only one elite player.

Now, I think this is where the chart becomes a whole lot less valuable but it's still worth a look. Rather than go strictly by their rankings -- Patrick Willis is the only listed elite player, yet NaVorro Bowman had a higher rating than him last season -- they're tweaking things based on ... whatever they want, really. Whatever the case, I'm going to rattle off some thoughts on the whole thing.

  • They basically say that Bowman and Aldon Smith are elite, but that they're not for things that have nothing to do with football. I don't think it would be out of line to say that Joe Staley, Patrick Willis, NaVorro Bowman and Aldon Smith all belong on the elite list.
  • Justin Smith, Colin Kaepernick, Alex Boone, Phil Dawson and Andy Lee are all listed as "good starters," and I seriously do not see how they're not under "high quality." That goes double for Boone and Lee in particular, who are getting better and better.
  • I think it's a little weird to see Eric Reid listed as an average starter, when we all know he had an impressive rookie campaign that clearly ranked him in the top-half of the league among free safeties. He should be in the "good" category.
  • On the flip-side to that, I'm tickled that Jonathan Baldwin is listed as a "below average starter," when they have a "poor starter" category. That guy is really placed wrong. The same goes for safety Craig Dahl, who is also listed as below-average. I also think Adam Snyder belongs in the "average" category, not "below average."
  • Of the players listed with "not enough information," I think C.J. Spillman is a guy who has played plenty enough to be placed in the average column. He's reliable when he finds his way onto the field on defense.
  • Pretty funny that they give the long snapper a rating, isn't it? I mean, why bother?
  • So the most interesting thing regarding actual placement of players is making Kilgore the starting center over Marcus Martin. I'm not sure it has anything to do with Martin being a rookie, as they've placed Kilgore in the "not enough information" category. I think Kilgore was initially in line to take the job, especially given his contract extension, I just don't see it happening with someone like Martin around. He's good and he's NFL-ready, I think.
  • The cornerback depth is always interesting given how things have shaken out of late. PFF believes the starters will be Chris Culliver and Tramaine Brock, with Chris Cook and Perrish Cox as immediate backups, and Jimmie Ward as the starting nickel corner. I think that's about in line with what the rest of us expect.
  • As a whole, I don't think this is a bad depth chart. I agree with every placement save for Kilgore, and I obviously have my problems with the categories, but knowing that they're simply someone's opinion makes them about as valid as my own, so it's still an interesting look, isn't it? There's a chance I'm being a huge homer overall (outside of the elite category ... one player? Come on now!), outside of my disdain for all things Craig Dahl. What do you think?
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