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ESPN offseason grades not kind to the San Francisco 49ers

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The folks at ESPN released offseason grades, and their assessment of the 49ers is not a shocking one. It will take the regular season for opinions to really change.

Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

The NFL league meetings wrapped up today, and things will quiet down to some extent. The San Francisco 49ers began their OTAs on Tuesday, so that's something, but offseason workouts don't have quite the debate cache as things like DeflateGate.

Thankfully, ESPN is here to fill our day! ESPN's NFL analysts have put together offseason grades, and our 49ers do not come across well. This is not at all surprising, but it is still something to note. The grades come courtesy of Mike Sando, Bill Polian, Louis Riddick, Matt Williamson and Field Yates. These are primarily national guys, so their team-by-team knowledge should be taken with a grain of salt. However, they also all know football. Like minds will disagree on plenty, but it at least provides some interesting debate.

The 49ers were given the lowest grade among all 32 teams, finishing with a D+. Three teams finished with an A or A-, 20 received some kind of B, and eight received some kind of C.

I can't show you the entire 49ers analysis, but here is a general rundown. Riddick had this to say about the losses across the board:

"Are they better off without Harbaugh?" Riddick asked. "It is not acceptable if they downgraded. This is all on Tomsula and GM Trent Baalke. They lost a lot of leadership on the roster as well. They drafted Armstead, who is boom or bust. Can they get it out of him? Tartt could be a big contributor up the middle. Overall, though, this team suffered lots of losses, self-inflicted and otherwise, and there are questions with some of the people they added."

Field Yates focused more on the draft picks:

"You still see enough talent that it would not surprise me if they were competitive enough to win eight to nine games," Yates said. "At the same time, they are at a crossroads where you ask whether it's time to rebuild. They have made a lot of draft picks and too many have not made big impacts yet."

Matt Williamson was a bit more positive, but even he had a bit of a back-handed compliment.

"If you polled 100 people who do what we do, most will have a worse grade on the 49ers than I do," said Williamson, who gave the 49ers a C-plus mark. "They have done a decent job preparing for a lot of these changes. Their defense is not in as dire straits as people might think. They have pass-rushers and are loaded at safety."

While I am more optimistic about the 49ers chances heading into 2015, I also am not surprised people are skeptical. The 49ers have had significant turnover. The coaching staff has been completely overhauled, and we have see key leaders retire or depart in free agency. Change is not easy to deal with, so of course some people will be skeptical.

The glass half full view is that most of the departures involved older declining players (Frank Gore, Patrick Willis, Justin Smith), or younger players that can be replaced with relative ease (Michael Crabtree, Chris Culliver, Perrish Cox). The glass half full thinks either the questions are not that significant, or if they are, there are plenty of answers to be had.

The glass half empty view sees numerous players and coaches that were huge reasons this team went to three straight NFC title game appearances. Even with players getting older, that assumes their performances were going to drop off a cliff in 2015. There are numerous question marks facing the team, and to answer all or most of them is expecting a lot, which seems unlikely.

Each side can offer their own specifics within that, but those strike me as generalized views of the two sides. I am not surprised national folks feel this way, and really it won't be changing until this team steps on the field and proves it will not regress. One or two strong preseason performances will get some folks buying in, but it will take a capable regular season to get more significant buy-in. That means we will be left to this debate for a solid three to four more months at a minimum. Good times!

As far as the rest of the NFC West, they graded out as follows:

Seattle Seahawks: B+
St. Louis Rams: B
Arizona Cardinals: B-