Taylor Kyles of Pats Pulpit and a couple of other Patriots sites made a depth chart “reset” for both sides of the ball. Let’s do the same for the 49ers, but stick with the offense for today. We’ll come back to the defensive side of the ball tomorrow.
The 49ers offense shouldn’t look too different from last season. It feels like we’re in for another rollercoaster of a season where we see multiple quarterbacks under center. Of course, that could change depending on when Brock Purdy gets healthy.
To get a sense of how each player stacks up against each other and compared to the rest of the league, I put designations on each. The best of the best are labeled at “blue chip” players or Pro Bowl talents. To me, there are three players on offense that fit the criteria.
From there, there are impact players, solid starters, role players, and practice squad players. And for the younger guys on the team, they have designations from Year 1-3. Or, if it’s too soon to tell, they have their own label as well.
Here’s what I came up with:
Offensive depth chart
|Blue Chip/Pro Bowl talent
|Practice squad player
|Pro Bowl talent (Year 1-3)
|Solid Starter (Year 1-3)
|Impact player (Year 1-3)
|Role player/Backup (Year 1-3)
|Jury is still out/Too soon to tell (Year 1-3)
I listed the colors first, since they didn’t copy over. Apologies if the font is too small to read.
There isn’t a “blue chip Year 1-3” because those types come around once in a blue moon. That’s the type of designation reserved for a Nick Bosa, when the player can walk onto the field and is already one of the best at his position.
Purdy wasn’t the best, but it’s telling how he made an instant impact. There’s a reason the 49ers have given the former seventh-rounder so much public support. Purdy turned their season around.
Lance is a complete unknown. He has yet to start five games in the NFL. If you were to compare his stats to just about any other quarterback early on in their careers, it would look identical. Plus, Lance was already inexperienced coming into the league.
We know who Sam Darnold is at this point, and that’s a backup. The talent is there, but Darnold’s decision-making is too inconsistent to put him in a higher tier. Sure, that could change given the fact that he’s surrounded by multiple plus starters, but we have to go based on the product Darnold’s put on the field so far throughout his career.
McCaffrey is head and shoulders above the rest of the skill players on the team, for my money. The way Kyle Shanahan used him and relied on CMC said it all last year. Lost in the Eagles debacle was one of the best touchdown runs we saw all season.
Elijah Mitchell has the makings to be an impact player, but he may have the worst injury luck on a team that’s been struck by the injury lightning bolt more than any in the previous few seasons.
Wide receiver - F (Slot)
When you put the F receivers on paper and isolate them from the two starters, it’s easy to see why the 49ers continue to invest in the position. Jennings and McCloud are free agents after this year. Third and Jauan was made for the “solid starter” designation.
Brandon Aiyuk and Deebo Samuel move inside enough, as does Kyle Juszczyk and McCaffrey, to where the 49ers offense can get away with the lack of speed in Jennings case or size in McCloud’s.
Wide Receiver - X/Z
Some may argue Deebo (especially after his ‘21 season) or Aiyuk should be listed higher. Aiyuk hasn’t had the opportunities to be listed as a blue chipper, while what we saw from Samuel last year is a better representation of who he is and will be as a player.
Danny Gray’s development will go a long way in how the 49ers decide to move forward with either Aiyuk or Deebo. They need to figure out who Gray is as a player and if he can be a contributor.
Gray must find a way to get involved, and that’s on the coaching staff. His best bet may be on intermediate crossing routes, where Gray uses his speed to run away from the defense horizontally, not just as a vertical threat.
Kittle solidified is position as one of the best tight ends once Purdy took over. Latu is still green to the position. If he develops into a solid starter, that’s a win for the 49ers. Based on what the team has gotten from Charlie Woerner and Ross Dwelley in the previous two seasons, the door is wide open for either Latu or seventh round pick Brayden Willis to step in as TE2.
It would be based off pure projection to list Colton McKivitz, or Matt Pryor, as anything besides a role player at this point. Both players' contracts would suggest they’re backups, as would their play.
Jaylon Moore is in the same boat, though he’s likely delegated to the swing tackle or practice squad if he doesn’t take his game to another level. Based on their offseason decisions, the 49ers are content with “getting by” with whoever plays right tackle this year. And with the way the salary cap is set up and how the Niners have poured their resources into other positions, I think it makes the most sense.
Trent Williams: decent player.
Interior offensive line
Spencer Burford and Aaron Banks showed glimpses of being impact players during their first seasons as starters, but also had enough warts at times to make you second guess their status. That’s to be expected when you’re thrown into the first. Burford may be tasked with more on his plate this year, given McKivitz’s inexperience.
But Burford’s natural strength and athleticism gives him the ceiling of an impact player, while Banks could mold into Laken Tomlinson 2.0.
Re-signing Jake Brendel was a no-brainer the way he stepped in as a starter. If Brendel doesn’t pan out in his second season as a Niner, the 49ers are well-equipped to handle that with Jon Feliciano, who may be closer to a solid starter than a role player.
San Francisco’s interior offensive line doesn’t have the same question marks as it did heading into the 2022 regular season. We’ll see if that holds up.