Earlier this month, I put together a quick article looking at rankings Danny Kelly put together for the various defensive units across the NFL. He ranked the 49ers linebackers as elite, and their defensive line and secondary as wild cards. His wild cards were teams with talented options, but enough question marks that he could not include them directly in elite or great.
Danny has moved on to the offensive side of the ball, and his two most recent articles broke down the primary pass catchers. On Monday he looked at tight ends, and this morning he wrote about wide receivers. In case you've missed his rankings, they are not a 1-32 ranking, but rather, a look at the best units, and units with talent but question marks. For tight ends, he included groups for the elite, the damn good, the contenders, and wild cards. For wide receivers he also discussed "dynamic duos". These groups had great starting receivers, but did not necessarily have as much depth as the damn good teams.
This time around, Danny listed the 49ers tight ends and wide receivers both among the damn good units. And considering the units he listed, damn good is probably a good description for both units. The 49ers have talent at both positions, but there are reasonably arguments for why a few groups are ahead of the 49ers.
The 49ers "ranked out" best among the NFC West. The 49ers were listed in damn good, the Cardinals were listed in dynamic duos, the Seahawks were in contenders, and the Rams were among the teams that received some consideration for wild card inclusion.
Danny was generally effusive in his praise of the 49ers wide receivers. They are hopefully going to have Michael Crabtree back for the full season, they added Stevie Johnson for a conditional mid-round draft pick, they added Bruce Ellington in the draft, and Quinton Patton showed some promise last year.
This group has the potential to be among the best in the league, but the depth at least puts them in position to weather some storms if injuries become a problem. Stevie Johnson is not participating in team drills during the offseason workout program as he recovers from a hamstring issue. Even if he's healthy heading into the season, his hamstring and groin injuries are something to keep an eye on. He is a fantastic receiver when healthy, but that's always been the rub. The 49ers depth is solid if Johnson misses any time during the season, but it will still be something to track all season long.
The 49ers also ranked out best among the NFC West at tight end. They were listed as damn good, while the Rams and Seahawks were both listed among contenders. The Cardinals were not listed.
This ranking is based primarily on Vernon Davis, but also the potential of Vance McDonald. If the 49ers go into the season with their full contingent of tight ends, they'll be in great shape. The question of course is whether or not Davis will be with the team Week 1 against the Dallas Cowboys. I suspect he will be, but we really don't know how this holdout will play out.
For now, Vance McDonald has been getting No. 1 tight end work. Garrett Celek and Derek Carrier are behind him, and Asante Cleveland and Kevin Greene are further down the depth chart. The 49ers should have enough bodies in camp if Vernon holds out, but with Eric Wright retiring, the team very well could add one more in case Vernon remains out. Or the team could add another offensive lineman if Boone sits out camp.
If Davis were to sit out into the season, this group is a wild card at best. We have no idea if McDonald will break through this year. Celek and Carrier are solid No. 3s, but most of us probably are not excited about them potentially becoming a regular part of the rotation as the No. 2 tight end. I still think Davis is back before the regular season starts, but it remains a huge question mark until he returns.