We’re into the starters and core players on the San Francisco 49ers roster. If you haven’t seen the previous rankings, nine of us voted on the 90 players. We’ve ranked from 90-81, from 80-71, 70-61, 60-51, 50-41, and 31-40. Let’s get into the next set of rankings, starting with a kicker.
30: K Robbie Gould; High: 22, Low: 86, KP: 30
Gould must’ve taken a job from Richard Madrid somewhere along the way. That’s who ranked Gould as one of the worst players on the team. Gould struggled earlier in the year and ended up missing some time during the regular season with an injury. Once he returned, he was good as Gould.
29: S Tarvarius Moore; High: 21, Low: 32, KP: 29
In his first season playing safety, I thought Moore played well. He missed some tackles, and that can’t happen when you’re the last line of defense. Moore will be a weapon for the 49ers this year in sub-packages. He can cover tight ends and running backs, which allows the defense to be aggressive up front. Moore is a player San Francisco needs to continue to develop.
28: WR Jalen Hurd; High: 20, Low: 38, KP: 25
This one hurt. Hurd tore his ACL after working on the side of practice by himself. That kid’s luck has been awful to start his professional career. The glass half full version: The 49ers didn’t have Hurd last year, so they didn’t really lose anything. The glass half empty version: Hurd was exactly the receiver the team needed. He’s a big guy that could make plays after the catch and near the goal line. The Niners Nation, cynic version: Why can’t we have nice things, and why does the injury bug hate us?
27: Edge Ronald Blair; High: 21, Low: 33, KP: 26
On Tuesday, unprovoked, defensive coordinator Robert Saleh brought up his man crush, Ronnie Blair. The backup edge rusher is starting the season on the Active/Pup List, which signals the team expects Blair back on the field sooner than later.
Blair finds ways to win as a pass rusher. It’s that cut and dry. He will provide a big boost once he returns, and hopefully, that’ll allow the team to take some of the workloads off Arik Armstead and Nick Bosa to keep them fresh.
26: CB Ahkello Witherspoon; High: 25, Low: 42, KP: 27
Witherspoon is so physically gifted that he is still receiving first-team reps at practice despite being benched twice last season. Mentally, ‘Spoon has to figure out how to get over giving up a play. As a cornerback, that’s going to happen. He was playing “not to get beaten” as opposed to “trying to make a play.” The difference was evident, and that’s why Emmanuel Moseley started in the Super Bowl. Witherspoon has to regain the coaching staff’s trust if he wants to step onto the field this season.
25: OL Daniel Brunskill; High: 20, Low: 26, KP: 23
Brunskill entered the offseason as the favorite to start at right guard. With Weston Richburg starting the season on the PUP list and Ben Garland set to miss time, Brunskill could very well be the 49ers starting center Week 1.
Brunskill was superb in 2019. He played both tackle spots and right guard with very little drop-off from the starters. If healthy, Brunskill likely doesn’t come off the field in 2020. The only question is which position he’ll play.
24: WR Kendrick Bourne; High: 17, Low: 31, KP: 31
Bourne is a player I have and will likely continue to struggle to evaluate. I cannot wait to see him in person to see how he’s evolved as a player this season. As far as consistency, catching in traffic, and being a reliable target for Jimmy Garoppolo, Bourne is great in this offense. I want to see Bourne improve down the field, after the catch, and on more than just timing routes against man coverage. He has the ability, and Bourne has been trending in the right direction since his career started.
23: WR Brandon Aiyuk; High: 11, Low: 24, KP: 11
Aiyuk is the opposite of Bourne for me. In Shanahan’s offense, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better fit than Aiyuk. He’s received a ton of early praise so far in training camp. Aiyuk has had big plays on deep routes and also took a short pass for a big gain. It’s not fair to assume Aiyuk will evolve into a WR1 as a rookie, but with the injuries at receiver on the roster, there might not be a choice.
It’ll be fun to watch Aiyuk “grow up” in Shanahan’s scheme with a competent quarterback.
22. DT D.J. Jones; High: 16, Low: 27, KP: 19
This is a big year for the 49ers nose tackle, who missed the final few games and the playoffs after a significant ankle injury. I’ve said if Jones was healthy, the 49ers win the Super Bowl. That may be a stretch, but he was that impactful to the run defense last season. With Javon Kinlaw added into the mix, the interior should be stout. Keep an eye on Jones as a pass rusher this season. That’s an area where he could improve as a player. If The Niners can get pressure from Jones this year, that’s the icing on the cake.
21. LG Laken Tomlinson; High: 18, Low, 23, KP: 20
Tomlinson is an ideal guard. Solid and reliable in pass protection, can execute double team blocks and get to his spots in the run game. Kinlaw said Tomlinson has been giving him fits this week at practice. That speaks to Tomlinson’s technique and underrated strength. He’s the “steady Eddie” of the line and the most consistent player from a snaps standpoint.