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49ers make huge climb up ESPN ‘future’ power rankings

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Trading for Jimmy Garoppolo, winning five straight with him as the starter, and then extending him will do wonders for expectations.

Each offseason, ESPN releases something they call “future” power rankings, and it should be no surprise the San Francisco 49ers have made a major move up compared to a year ago.

Mike Sando, Field Yates, and Louis Riddick go through all 32 teams and using a scale of 40-100, rate their quarterback position, roster excluding quarterbacks, draft performance, front office, and coaching staff. They average those results and weight them to come up with a final score. The weighting is roster (30 percent), quarterback (20 percent), draft (15 percent), front office (15 percent) and coaching (20 percent).

A year ago, the 49ers ranked No. 30 in the future rankings. They got some love for the front office and coaching staff changes, but it wasn’t enough to make up for a shaky roster. The team ranked No. 30 in roster excluding quarterback, and No. 29 for the quarterback position. That’s 50 percent of the grade, so ranking 16th, 19th, and 21st in coaching, draft, and front office, respectively were weighed down by the roster.

This summer, the 49ers have what they hope is their answer at quarterback, along with a significantly re-tooled roster. That has moved them from No. 30 all the way to No. 13, and it’s a pretty simple explanation.

Why they’re here: Everything shifted for the 49ers when the team acquired quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, stabilizing the most important spot on the roster. Equal enthusiasm surrounds coach Kyle Shanahan, an offensive wizard who will maximize the talent at his disposal. Defensive questions persist for the moment, and while GM John Lynch has made some notable moves early on the job, there is still a larger sample needed for a better feel as to how he will stack up in his current position. -- Yates

You figure out your quarterback, you’ve figured out the biggest obstacle to success in the NFL. Plenty of players can impact the team, but if you don’t have a quarterback, you’re operating at a severe disadvantage. The 49ers have significant roster question marks heading into training camp, and while Jimmy G has plenty to prove, it’s a big step just having him on the roster.

Biggest worry: 49ers management solved the QB problem. The Niners knocked it out of the park, to be honest. Now what concerns me is the defense, specifically if they have enough prospects who can rush the passer or be developed into productive pass-rushers. The 49ers were 26th in sacks per pass attempt in 2017, and they could not get off the field on third down. Players such as Solomon Thomas and Cassius Marsh have to pan out, and cornerback Richard Sherman has to come back better than ever. I have confidence in Sherman. I’m not so sure about the rest. -- Riddick

I agree with much of what Riddick says. That pass rush is going to be the big question mark for the defense. There are other questions, but if the pass rush takes a step forward, this defense could do some damage.

What could change for the better: We ranked the 49ers roughly among the NFL’s bottom third for drafting and the front office, but that could be harsh when evaluating a team that landed Garoppolo for a second-round pick. The 49ers could take off if the still-unproven Lynch shows himself to be an excellent GM. -- Sando

The 49ers rank No. 9 for their quarterback position, No. 14 for roster minus quarterback, No. 10 for coaching, No. 25 for the draft, and No. 22 for the front office. They’re not fully sold on John Lynch as general manager, and it’s not an entirely unreasonable assessment. The Jerick McKinnon and Weston Richburg signings involved some big up-front money, but I also think this ranking does not give Paraag Marathe proper respect for his contract skills.

The 49ers could take a hit with poor performances from one or both players, as with Garoppolo, but Marathe has developed a contract protocol that gives the 49ers plenty of outs if things don’t work out. The 49ers have plenty of cap room, but even beyond that, they have contract flexibility from even their biggest contracts. The 49ers signing decisions have raised some eyebrows, but it’s hard not to like most of the contracts. That should be worth a little bit more in this kind of ranking.