The San Francisco 49ers are in a rebuilding phase, or at least they will be when the offseason hits. They're a team without a franchise quarterback, and one with holes all over the place. That said, they're not a franchise bereft of talent, and that includes young, up-and-coming players as well.
You don't need me to tell you that outside linebacker Aaron Lynch is incredible and should be a staple at the position for years to come. Inside linebacker NaVorro Bowman is also as good as it gets, and then there's strong offensive linemen like Joe Staley and Alex Boone (although the latter is a free agent after this season). Running back Carlos Hyde looks great as the feature back and I think he has a bright future there.
But most of the other positions worry me. I'm unsure about the defensive line, the other linebacker spots, the cornerback position and even safety now. The 49ers absolutely do not have a tight end that could even sort of fill in as a starter. The offensive line is an absolute wreck from center to right tackle. Quarterback is, as always, a glaring need.
So I take a look at the young guys at these positions, other than the obvious names, and wonder if there is hope or if the only way a position will improve is if the 49ers bring in new people and push the old ones out.
At tight end, there's Blake Bell and Busta Anderson, two players who drew a lot of praise from the coaching staff but who have not played much or at all this season. Tight ends are weird and often have different developmental cycles than other players. The 49ers drafted them but they'll surely add another tight end in the offseason. I'll call that position an unknown for now.
Cornerback is the biggest issue and the most intriguing as far as I'm concerned. The 49ers haven't seen totally terrible play out of Kenneth Acker this season, but a lot of his big plays were the result of poor throws from opposing quarterbacks. Tramaine Brock has been up and down, definitely not the kind of player you want being the No. 1 cornerback.
Dontae Johnson is still the most interesting to me. Of the 49ers young cornerbacks, I feel like Johnson has the highest ceiling. He's shown flashes of high level play in the past and I honestly think if the 49ers were going to hit the big red button on the position and keep just one player, I'd hope that player is Johnson.
Wide receiver is another head scratcher. Anquan Boldin wants to keep playing and Torrey Smith is locked up, but the 49ers really need to draft a guy and have it stick. Quinton Patton and Bruce Ellington have shown flashes but that's it. DeAndre Smelter might be something eventually, but the 49ers really need a win at this position.
The defensive line is kind of a headache at this point. Ian Williams and Quinton Dial are good, as is Glenn Dorsey. But so far I haven't seen anything particularly impressive from first-round pick Arik Armstead and Tank Carradine was recently benched. Carradine seems to be done in San Francisco and that sucks. Tony Jerod-Eddie really doesn't do anything for me, either.
Lastly, the safety position. Eric Reid has been bad this season, like really bad. He's not injured, he's just making bad mistakes and it shows. Antoine Bethea's future is murky given his injury. I like what I've seen from Jaquiski Tartt but the position is still definitely a concern.
I'm interested to hear what people have to say on this. Are there players I haven't covered that you think will definitely stick going forward, or positions I didn't mention that could be a huge issue going forward? Let's hear it.