Now that OTAs are here, the early evaluations of the 49ers roster are underway. Obviously the eyes of many will be on the quarterback competition, but Kyle Shanahan and John Lynch have a responsibility to look at the roster as a whole to determine where the strengths and weaknesses lie once we see these guys out on the field. Niner Nate and Leo Luna did that on today’s Niner Nate-tion Podcast as well, by asking a simple question: what are the best and worst position groups on this year’s team?
Thankfully, due to some excellent roster construction from Kyle Shanahan, Adam Peters, and John Lynch, there’s a lot of competition for the top spot. Niner Nate and Leo were joined by the Blow the Whistle Podcast’s Luke Keck to draft their selections.
Luke had the first pick, and the choice was easy for him.
“They have the potential to be the best position group. You have Nick Bosa coming back, who is one of the best edge defenders in all of football. That allows the rest of the defensive line to kind of get back to the position they were in 2019 when they were so dominant...You have Javon Kinlaw who I think is going to make a second-year jump. You have Arik Armstead who, if he’s not being forced to play defensive end like he did last year and in previous years, we’ve seen how talented he can be. It’s not like it was in years past when you just had players that were going to be out of the league or guys signed from the practice squad filling out your roster. They are the biggest known-commodity to me.”
Bosa’s return will certainly make the biggest impact, but the qualify of the backup players on the line are really what sets it apart from the other groups on this roster. With depth pieces like Maurice Hurst, DJ Jones, Kevin Givens, and Zach Kerr, the 49ers will have the luxury of being able to provide plenty of rest for their biggest pass rushers as the game goes along. That should both allow the starters to shine in critical moments, while also making injuries along that defensive front easier to absorb throughout the season.
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There were three other groups named as the strongest, and surprisingly they all came on offense.
On the other side of the coin, one position stuck out to Leo like a sore thumb.
What happens if Fred Warner goes down? A terrifying thought, sure, but let’s explore that for a minute. Dre Greenlaw would obviously fill those shoes, but the rest of the linebacking core (middle or otherwise) looks pretty thin. Azeez Al-Shaair and Demetrius Flannigan-Fowles don’t inspire a ton of confidence, and don’t even get me started on Nate Gerry. Short of Bosa, Fred Warner is the most important player on the defense. The ripple effect of a long-term injury to #54 would be devestating.
Other thoughts in the podcast
- How real are the Julio Jones rumors?
- How would the expectations for the 49ers change if they made that move?
- What would have to happen for a Julio Jones trade to backfire on the team?