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2016 49ers 90-man roster ranking: players 10-1

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We wrap up our countdown of the 49ers’ 90-man roster, with the top ten players. Yep, plenty of big names.

The San Francisco 49ers kick off training camp this weekend, which means the downtime is just about set to come to a close. While we prepare for that, I came across a fun idea over at our Packers blog, Acme Packing Company. They had five of their writers rank out the team’s entire 88-man roster (indeed, they still have two spots available), and come up with a composite ranking. You’ll be stunned to learn that Aaron Rodgers finished in first place.

I spoke with ten of our contributors, and we each put together our rankings of the 49ers entire 90-man roster. It was a blind ranking, with each person submitting their rankings to me. I then created a composite ranking, which will be revealed over the next nine days, ten players at a time. After that is complete, I will post the individual rankings, along with comments from each voter on any particularly notable high or low ranked players. The voters included myself, Pat Holloway, James Brady, Tracy (49ersfangirl), Billy from the Nuggets, Jason Hurley, Greg Valerio, Oscar and David from Better Rivals, Alex Rubenstein who does video work for SB Nation, and Jennifer Chan.

Since this is entirely subjective, I did not provide a specific framework for voting. I simply told them to factor in injuries and the Aaron Lynch suspension, and figure it out from there. This could shuffle around plenty between now and the team’s final roster cuts. Here are the top ten spots.

10. DeForest Buckner, DT (High: 7, Low: 21)

The 49ers spent the seventh pick of this year’s draft on Buckner. He is viewed by many as one of the most immediate impact options in this year’s draft class. He re-joins his old teammate, and should get significant work right away. He started OTAs with the the third team defensive line, but moved up to second team by minicamp. I expect to see a lot of him quickly this year.

9. Arik Armstead, DT (High: 6, Low: 22)

And then there’s his running mate, last year’s first round pick. Armstead focused on nickel work last season, and was an effective pass rusher in that role. He will look to expand his role in his second season. The question is how this group will rotate. Armstead, Buckner, and Quinton Dial would seem to be the three primary options at defensive end in the base defense. When the team goes to the nickel, Armstead and Buckner make a ton of sense as the interior defensive tackles. It will be interesting how the rotation works, and who ends up with the most snaps by the end of the season.

8. Antoine Bethea, SS (High: 4, Low: 23)

The 49ers signed Bethea to a four-year deal in 2014. He put together a strong first season, but took a step back last season before his torn pectoral muscle. He is back in 2016 and will start next to Eric Reid. Jaquiski Tartt is a future starting safety, but in the meantime, will rotate into the sub packages.

7. Aaron Lynch, OLB (High: 2, Low: 18)

We started doing these rankings shortly before Lynch was suspended, but nobody had completed rankings at that point. I left it up to each individual ranker how they would factor in the four-game suspension. Long-term, it leaves me concerned because further suspensions are not out of the realm of the possible. It takes multiple violations of the league’s substance abuse policy to get a suspension. This makes Lynch a huge question moving forward. He is very talented, but can he pass his drug tests?

6. Jimmie Ward, CB (High: 4, Low: 13)

The 49ers 2014 first round pick could be making a big move in 2016. He was the team’s nickel back in 2014 and 2015. His rookie season was cut short by an aggravation of his foot injury, but he bounced back with a very solid 2015. He spent OTAs and minicamp primarily working outside, opposite Tramaine Brock. It raises a question of who will be the nickel back, but the 49ers do at least have the flexibility of moving Ward inside if needed.

5. Eric Reid, FS (High: 2, Low: 12)

The 49ers 2013 first round pick had a strong start to his career, but took a step back in 2015. The team exercised their fifth year option on him, and it becomes fully guaranteed next spring if he remains on the roster. He remains solid, but if the team is going to lock him up with a contract extension, they’ll need to see more in 2016.

4. Torrey Smith, WR (High: 4, Low: 11)

The 49ers signed Smith to a five-year, $40 million contract in 2015, and the seem to not really want to utilize him nearly enough his first season. He made some big plays for the team, but the state of the offense, and particularly the quarterback position meant he was never really able to get going. He is the 49ers best receiver at this point, but is not really a “#1” receiver. The departure of Anquan Boldin leaves numerous questions at the wide receiver position heading into 2016.

3. Carlos Hyde, RB (High: 2, Low: 12)

The 49ers offense could ride or die depending on what Carlos Hyde can do. The team spent a second round pick on him in 2014. He did solid work as Frank Gore’s backup, and then moved into the starting lineup in 2015. A strong story was quickly scuttled by a foot injury that cost him much of the season. Chip Kelly does a lot with his running backs, but there are questions behind Hyde on the depth chart.

2. Joe Staley, OT (High: 1, Low: 5)

The 49ers left tackle got three 1st place votes among the 11 voters. He is signed through the 2019 season, and turns 32 at the end of August. He knows people are starting to wonder when he’ll hit the wall, but for the time being, he is the 49ers best offensive lineman. He’ll be the anchor for a line that needs to establish some semblance of solid continuity. The biggest problem with the offense the last two years has been the offensive line, both with injuries and ineffectiveness. If they can find some semblance of consistency and health, it could bode very well for the offense.

1. NaVorro Bowman (High: 1, Low: 5)

The 49ers franchise linebacker got eight 1st place votes among our 11 voters. His return from ACL/MCL surgery was a success last season. He showed some issues, particularly in coverage, but he took a huge step forward in returning to action. The next step is regaining some consistency and improving to his old ways in coverage. And at 28 years of age, he’s still right in the prime of his career.

11-20
11. Quinton Dial, DT
12. Ian Williams, DT
13. Jaquiski Tartt, S
14. Phil Dawson, K
15. Daniel Kilgore, OG
16. Tramaine Brock, CB
17. Joshua Garnett, OG
18. Colin Kaepernick, QB
19. Bruce Miller, TE
20. Blaine Gabbert, QB

21-30
21. Garrett Celek, TE
22. Bruce Ellington, WR
23. Ahmad Brooks, OLB
24. Zane Beadles, OG
25. Glenn Dorsey, DT
26. Dontae Johnson, CB
27. Eli Harold, OLB
28. Gerald Hodges, ILB
29. Michael Wilhoite, ILB
30. Blake Bell, TE

31-40
31. Tank Carradine, OLB
32. Kenneth Acker, CB
33. Eric Rogers, WR
34. Vance McDonald, TE
35. Quinton Patton, WR
36. Andrew Tiller, OG
37. Will Redmond, CB
38. Bradley Pinion, P
39. Shaun Draughn, RB
40. DuJuan Harris, RB

41-50
41. Ronald Blair, DT
42. Tony Jerod-Eddie, DT
43. Mike Purcell, DT
44. DeAndre Smelter, WR
45. Keith Reaser, CB
46. Rashard Robinson, CB
47. Trent Brown, OT
48. Fahn Cooper, OL
49. L.J. McCray, S
50. Kyle Nelson, LS

51-60
51. Marcus Cromartie, DB
52. Ray-Ray Armstrong, ILB
53. Jerome Simpson, WR
54. DeAndrew White, WR
55. Corey Lemonier, OLB
56. John Theus, OL
57. Kelvin Taylor, RB
58. Brandon Thomas, OG
59. Marcus Martin, OG/C
60. Erik Pears, OT

61-70
61. Aaron Burbridge, WR
62. Mike Davis, RB
63. Jeff Driskel, QB
64. Ian Silberman, OL
65. Shayne Skov, ILB
66. Nick Bellore, ILB
67. Dres Anderson, WR
68. Devon Cajuste, WR
69. Kaleb Ramsey, DT
70. DiAndre Campbell, WR

71-80
71. Chris Davis, CB
72. Busta Anderson TE
73. Marcus Rush, OLB
74. Prince Charles Iworah, CB
75. Alex Balducci, OL
76. Kendall Gaskins, RB
77. Thad Lewis, QB
78. Bryce Treggs, WR
79. Jason Fanaika, OLB
80. Colin Kelly, OL

81-90
81. Darren Lake, DT
82. Jered Bell, S
83. Garrison Smith, DT
84. Demetrius Cherry, DL
85. Blake Muir, OL
86. Je’Ron Hamm, TE
87. Wynton McManis, ILB
88. John Lunsford, K
89. Lenny Jones, OLB
90. Norman Price, OL