The 49ers schedule makes for a relatively soft start from a defensive perspective. But once we get past the first month, the quarterbacks turn into Dak Prescott, Deshaun Watson, Kirk Cousins, Joe Burrow, and Trevor Lawrence.
The Niners secondary will have to grow up in a hurry as they figure to be tested early and often, facing that group of quarterbacks. The strength of schedule for quarterbacks doesn’t get any easier for San Francisco as the season goes along. In the back half of the schedule, the 49ers face Geno Smith and Seattle’s weapons twice, Jalen Hurts, Lamar Jackson, and Kyler Murray.
ESPN’s Mike Clay does his annual positional rankings, and came out with his list for cornerbacks Monday morning. Clay had the 49ers ranked No. 24 in the NFL:
2023 NFL Cornerback Unit Ranks and Depth Charts.— Mike Clay (@MikeClayNFL) May 15, 2023
The Jalen Ramsey trade launches the Dolphins to #1 and sinks the Rams to #32 pic.twitter.com/gQW9P8Jknw
For a better idea of how the 49ers cornerbacks and all other positions rank relative to the rest of the league, here are Clay’s full NFL unit grades:
The 49ers are falling victim to the “unknown.” As you can see, their quarterback ranking is lower than the Steelers, Raiders, Lions, and Cardinals, among other teams.
The “below average” positions on the team, per Clay, are at quarterback, offensive line, and cornerback. Those are three areas where if you’re in the red, the odds of you having a successful season are slim to none.
Last year, the 49ers were in the top-10 in most offensive line metrics. And we saw the offense skyrocket once Brock Purdy took over.
If Mooney Ward continues to ascend, his play alone could have the CB group in the upper half of the NFL. All Deommodore Lenoir and whoever starts at nickel need to be is competent for the 49ers defense to excel.
We’ll look back at these rankings midway through the season and once again once the year is over to see how accurate, or off base, they were.