The San Francisco 49ers struggled the last two years thanks to retirements, injuries, and free agency departures of high end talent. A team that boasted one of the deepest rosters in the NFL three years ago suddenly finds itself in a rebuilding process, with few sure things across the board.
ESPN recently put together a ranking of NFL teams based on the number of blue-chip players on their roster. He used a top 100 ranking ESPN did recently, expanded it to the top 200, and went from there. The New England Patriots, Seattle Seahawks, and Arizona Cardinals were the top three teams. The San Francisco 49ers came in No. 31, just ahead of the Cleveland Browns and just behind the Chicago Bears.
The 49ers blue chippers included Joe Staley, NaVorro Bowman, and Eric Reid. John Clayton provided commentary and had this to say about the 49ers:
Where they stand: The 49ers are rebuilding, but they are better than you think. They have several young draft choices -- particularly along the defensive line -- ready to emerge. Their offensive line also isn't bad.
What could change: DeForest Buckner and Arik Armstead could become top-level defenders soon. Their improved play would also raise the stock of nose tackle Quinton Dial, giving the 49ers the foundation of a quality defensive front seven.
The defense seems more likely to add blue-chip talent to this, as Clayton pointed out. Jimmie Ward will be a name to watch, and if Rashard Robinson can harness his tools and talent, he’s a deeper option to watch. On the offensive side of the ball, Carlos Hyde is an easy one to consider. If the passing game can get going, Torrey Smith could end up on the list next year just based on sheer volume. And the offensive line will be something to watch, particularly Anthony Davis and Trent Brown.
One thing the top of the list (Bengals, Packers after the three listed above) have in common is having their quarterback qualify for the spot. There are 16 teams listed with a blue-chip caliber quarterback. Of course, there will be plenty of discussion about what constitutes a blue chip quarterback. The group on this list includes Matt Ryan, Joe Flacco, and Matthew Stafford. I’d take all of them over the 49ers current situation, but blue chip is a tough call for some of them.