Pro Football Focus continued their pre-training camp position rankings on Wednesday with NFL secondaries. They combined safeties and cornerbacks, and included a nickel back now that teams use the nickel so much more frequently. This is where the 49ers finished up best, ranking No. 17 out of the 32 teams. Among NFC West teams, they ranked third. The Arizona Cardinals were No. 2, the Seattle Seahawks were No. 4, and the Los Angeles Rams were No. 27.
PFF has people handling teams, but for broader rankings like this, it is not always easy to get full details on each position unit. I’m guessing based on some of these positions that they used OurLads depth charts. For the 49ers, that included Tramaine Brock and Jimmie Ward at cornerback, Eric Reid and Antoine Bethea at safety, and Chris Davis as the nickel back. Davis was getting first team nickel work in minicamp, but we are a long way from Davis being the nickel back when Week 1 of the regular season arrives.
Here is what they had to say after listing out the starters and key reserves:
Key stat: Tartt allowed 1.18 yards per snap in coverage, the highest average for a safety in 2015.
Much of the 49ers’ roster struggled last year, but the secondary fared well for the most part. Recent draft picks Ward and Reid have performed above-average, even though they may have not yet shown enough to live up to their first-round status. Brock didn’t come close to his career-year of 2013, but had a solid season after missing most of the 2014 season. Having Bethea back will solidify the safety position and give Tartt more time to develop after being forced into the lineup last year.
The secondary and defensive line are the two positions that look like they could be the deepest this season. And it will be interesting to see what kind of rotation the 49ers utilize with both units. They might end up needing the most rotation if the snap count shoots up significantly opposite Chip Kelly’s offense. And the 49ers addressed both positions significantly in the draft. They spent a first and a fifth on the defensive line, and a third, fourth, and seventh on the secondary. The secondary showed some interesting signs last year, but the team is clearly not set on the future of this group. Rashard Robinson and Will Redmond will be two of the big names to watch in training camp and the preseason.