The dead of summer brings with it an annual tradition: Pro Football Focus roster rankings at ESPN. The rankings are based on player performance from the previous season. It is not providing projections, but rather, where the team is building from. Some players will improve, some will regress, but this is a good starting point heading into training camp.
PFF has posted these rankings dating back to the 2014 offseason. For the San Francisco 49ers, that means a tale of just how bad things have gotten. Here is a look at the PFF roster rankings the past four years:
That sums things up pretty succinctly, as does where they rank this year. PFF moved the 49ers from 30th a year ago to 19th this year. John Lynch and Kyle Shanahan have been thoroughly overhauling the roster. They still have work to do, but they’ve made some key additions to set the team up for the future.
The addition of Jimmy Garoppolo is reason enough for a sizable bump. They ranked him No. 1 in pass grade while under pressure, No. 1 in third-down grade, and No. 5 in avoiding turnover-worthy plays. He only started five games, so we certainly can’t be certain of where this will go, but 49ers fans could not have asked for a better start.
PFF listed out the biggest strength and weakness for each team. DeForest Buckner was listed under biggest strength. In 2017, he ranked fifth among qualifiers in total pressures (52) and tied for sixth in grade (90.4), while leading defensive tackles with 19 quarterback hits. He ranked No. 43 in PFF’s Top 50 this year.
PFF listed Eli Harold as the team’s biggest weakness with the following explanation:
Now three years removed from joining the league as a third-round pick, linebacker Eli Harold has struggled to move past his raw technique and produce in a rotational role with the 49ers. He earned a career-low 47.7 grade in 2017 and has yet to earn a grade above 63.6 in his career.
Harold is competing with Pita Taumopenu and Dekoda Watson for the SAM role. Watson is primarily a special teams player, but he did get 91 snaps on defense. Taumoepenu was drafted last year as a project and will be expected to take a notable step forward this season. Harold is entering the final year of his contract, so if Taumoepenu steps up this season, the 49ers very well could decide to part ways at some point with Harold. There has been no word of a contract extension thus far, so we’ll see what training camp brings.
Below is a rundown of the 2017 grades across the offensive and defensive starting lineups. They listed Jimmie Ward as the starting free safety, which is not the case. Adrian Colbert is projected to start there, while Ward is competing at cornerback. Ward’s 2018 role could be that of super-sub if he does not claim a starting cornerback job in training camp.