Mike Clay of ESPN has been grading each position group of every team in the NFL this offseason and, surprisingly, the San Francisco 49ers find themselves in the middle of his overall unit grades.
Clay released those overall team rankings late last week, and the Niners find themselves ranked 15th, which is one spot behind the Seattle Seahawks.
As you can see from Clay’s breakdown, the biggest discrepancy between the 49ers and Seahawks rosters are at quarterback, cornerback, and safety. The edge under center is what ultimately gives Seattle the leg-up.
There were some arguments on social media recently that Brock Purdy is better than Geno Smith. The two quarterbacks weren’t asked to do the same thing. You’d have to imagine how each would look if they swapped places. Seattle has an above-average group of weapons, but they still come up comfortably short of who the Niners trot out onto the field, and that’s evidenced a bit in Clay’s projections.
Geno began to tail off in the latter stages of the season, and some worry the same will happen to Brock as more teams get film on him and figure out how to play against him. Smith’s physical traits are superior, and he consistently made difficult throws last year. I’d agree with the difference in QB grades, as the Niners remain relatively unproven.
I think we can all agree that the 49ers roster should be rated higher than 15th on any list. Any team with Nick Bosa as an edge rusher should be ranked higher than a median score.
There’s no doubt the team will feel the effects of losing Samson Ebukam and Charles Omenihu, but Bosa is fresh off a dominant season that won him the Defensive Player of the Year. His presence alone will prop up the likes of Drake Jackson and the rest of the edge rushing depth.
Cornerback is tied for the second-lowest grade on the team. Mooney Ward was hovering around a top-10 corner last season. His play allowed DeMeco Ryans to be aggressive and often forced quarterbacks to ignore one side of the field. Again, when you have a player in the upper echelon of the position, you’d think they’d be rewarded with a higher grade.
Quietly, Deommodore Lenoir played well down the stretch last season. He gave the organization enough confidence to roll with D-Mo into 2023 as the starter. There are questions at nickel, but if Lenoir and Ward play the way they finished the season, this unit rankings will look more like a farce come the end of the year.