[Chart last updated 7/9/14]
• The first player I imagine people will take issue with is Aldon Smith not being elite. I fully understand the logic there, and if all things were equal he probably would be. However, just like we dropped Percy Harvin down a notch for the Seahawks for question marks about him staying on the field, we’re doing the same with Smith and his off-the-field issues. A true talent to watch when he’s on the field, it’s important that he’s available as much as possible in 2014.
• NaVorro Bowman was our highest-graded inside linebacker in 2014, so how can we possibly not have him as an elite player here? Well, when you break down his overall grade (+20.0), +11.3 of it came from his plays as a pass rusher, which accounted for just 76 of his 1,062 regular season snaps. He ranked seventh and 13th, respectively, in terms of his grade against the run and in coverage and, as good as that is, it’s not quite elite.
• One of the strengths of the 49ers’ offense continues to be their offensive line, with the left side of Joe Staley and Mike Iupati up there with the best in the league. On the right Alex Boone and Anthony Davis might not be at quite that level, but are still capable starters. The only question mark remains at center, where it looks like Daniel Kilgore will be the starter at this stage.
1. Running Back
The 49ers addressed the running back position early in the NFL Draft in 2014, leaving them with plenty of players battling for playing time. Frank Gore can’t go on forever, but he was still productive last year, finishing 2013 as our 12th-highest graded running back. They also have Kendall Hunter and LaMichael James who have seen action in the past. They drafted Carlos Hyde in the second round of May’s draft, and don’t forget about Marcus Lattimore, who they took a chance on a year ago.
2. Nose Tackle
After arriving in San Francisco last year, nose tackle Glenn Dorsey had a productive year against the run, with only eight defensive tackles finishing the year with a higher grade than him in that department. Early in the year he was battling with Ian Williams for snaps in the middle of that defensive line, however, and if Williams is injury-free by the time training camp roles around, that battle will likely return.
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