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ESPN power rankings are conservative with 49ers heading into 2019

There is plenty of reason for optimism, however.

The offseason is upon us, and naturally that brings the proverbial “way-too-early” NFL power rankings. ESPN decided to kick things off by ranking teams and then including a reason for optimism. The 49ers were ranked No. 23, the first sign the World Wide Leader would be conservative about the team ... for the time being.

Reason for optimism: A healthy Jimmy Garoppolo. The Niners entered 2018 with a lot of buzz about a quick turnaround from the 6-10 record they posted in 2017, but most of that optimism vanished when Garoppolo tore an ACL in Week 3. Better health for the whole roster would be a welcome change, but having a full season of Garoppolo should at least offer the Niners a chance to know what they truly have at quarterback and put them in better position to get to .500 or better in 2019. — Nick Wagoner

The 49ers ended the season near the bottom of most power rankings. Nick Mullens played some solid football, but the team had plenty of issues to figure out closing out the season. Now, they get Jimmy Garoppolo and Jerick McKinnon back, hold the No. 2 pick in the 2019 NFL Draft, and have plenty of cap space heading into free agency. Expectations will grow, but tempering expectations is not the worst idea in the world.

The nine teams below the 49ers include the Bucs, Washington, Jaguars, Lions, Bengals, Bills, Jets, Raiders and Cardinals. From that group, the Jets intrigue me. I would not be surprised if they landed Le’Veon Bell, and with the second-most cap space, they can be plenty busy.

I’m amused to see the Miami Dolphins ranked ahead of the 49ers. They finished with a 7-9 record, but the spotting just ahead of the 49ers suggests Miami is a team that could easily slip down further into mediocrity. They have a new head coach in Patriots linebackers coach Brian Flores, but otherwise it’s hard to be overly optimistic about 2019 in South Florida.

Where do you see the 49ers power ranking sitting when Week 1 of the regular season arrives?