The San Francisco 49ers have had plenty of roster turnover this offseason, and naturally plenty of national folks are down on the team. The latest comes courtesy of Pro Football Focus. PFF has a working relationship with ESPN, and recently provided a ranking of all 32 NFL rosters.
A year ago, PFF ranked the 49ers roster No. 2 in the NFL. A year later, they dropped them to No. 17. This is not surprising consider the roster losses, but still worth a look. They list the top five players for each team, as well as "starters who should be upgraded." They break down as follows for the 49ers:
Top 5 players: NaVorro Bowman, Joe Staley, Aldon Smith, Anquan Boldin, Bruce Miller
Starters who should be upgraded: Erik Pears, Darnell Dockett, Shareece Wright, Michael Wilhoite
Here is what they said about the roster:
The Niners' roster was already on the decline, and then they lost a lot of talent to retirements this offseason, but the cupboard is not completely bare. Bowman returns to lead the defense alongside Smith, who's still one of the league's best edge players.
On offense, Colin Kaepernick has not developed as smoothly as the 49ers would have liked after he burst onto the scene in 2012. He has a new deep threat inTorrey Smith to go with a reliable possession receiver in Boldin. The offensive line has holes, but left tackle Staley is still at the top of his game, while centerDaniel Kilgore was a pleasant surprise last year.
That is not exactly a shocking list of players they view as needing to be upgraded. However, we also don't know how exactly all of them will fit into the starting lineup. It seems like the team thinks Erik Pears could work in the starting lineup, but even that is hard to figure out. I still think Alex Boone could end up at right tackle, in spite of spending three days of minicamp at left guard.
Darnell Dockett is an interesting one because he very well could find himself in some kind of defensive line platoon. I could see Quinton Dial and Glenn Dorsey starting at defensive end, and then Dockett and Tank Carradine coming on at defensive tackle when they move into the nickel. If they can focus on Dockett's strengths, it could work out very well.
Shareece Wright is viewed as a potential starter at cornerback, but his injury the last few weeks has opened the door for the younger players to get more practice time. Will he move right into the starting lineup when training camp rolls around? I don't think it's quite so clear. Wright and Tramaine Brock have the veteran experience, but hopefully the starting lineup is determined by more than just that.
As for Michael Wilhoite? Philip Wheeler, Nick Moody, Desmond Bishop and Shayne Skov might get their chances to challenge him but odds seem pretty good he'll be starting opposite NaVorro Bowman when Week 1 rolls around. He has what appears to be a fairly limited ceiling, but he is a very capable linebacker who would start for a lot of teams. It's safe to say we're a little bit spoiled when it comes to 49ers inside linebackers. Part of his success will depend on how the defensive line performs in front of him.