Snaps Lost: San Francisco 49ers
The “Snaps Lost” series is a detailed look at the playing time void created by players that have left each team this offseason, whether they were traded, cut, left in free agency, or retired.
Because each unit plays a different number of snaps over the course of the year, we have created the “Full Time Equivalent” metric. FTE is the total number of missing snaps divided by the number of plays the team ran on that side of the ball. This is an equivalent measure of how many full time players (100% snap count) the team would need to add on to make up for their offseason losses, even though very few players actually play a full snap count.
For example, if a team had 1,100 snaps on offense and then lost seven players who combined to play 2,200 snaps, their FTE would be 2.0 (2,200/1,100). This ensures that a team who lost a high volume of players only has a high FTE if those players racked up some significant playing time. FTE can only fall between zero (no players left the team) and 11 (fire everyone!) for each side of the ball.
Each team will have a ranking following their FTE, with the first-ranked team in each category (offense, defense, and total) representing the team with the smallest portion of their playing time in need of replacement.
A few caveats before getting into the good stuff:
-Suspensions and injuries that may limit 2015 snap counts are not considered.
-Biggest Losses are purely in terms of snap count, not necessarily in terms of impact.
-All snap counts are Regular Season only.
San Francisco 49ers
Overall FTE Lost: 8.09, 31st
FTE Lost: 3.85, 27th
Biggest Losses: Mike Iupati (970), Michael Crabtree (740), Frank Gore (665), Jonathan Martin (661), Anthony Davis (440), Brandon Lloyd (347), Stevie Johnson (305)
Summary – It’s almost a surprise that the 49ers aren’t dead last overall considering what they’ve had to deal with this offseason. Iupati took big money to strengthen the Cardinals’ offensive line, and Davis’ surprise retirement opens up another starting spot. Martin wasn’t great last year but was a serviceable fill-in for Davis at right tackle — his departure removes some critical depth on the line. Gore’s long and productive run as a 49er ended this offseason as he looks to finish his career with the Colts. There will be a massive overhaul of the receiving corps as Anquan Boldin is the only wideout to play more than 100 snaps and remain with the team. Crabtree’s recent play hasn’t resembled his fantastic 2012 season and he will try to resurrect his career in Oakland. Both Lloyd and Johnson are gone for 2015 after combining for just 729 yards. Soon to be 34, Lloyd is still unsigned while Johnson caught on with San Diego on a three-year deal.
Replacement Plan – They’re looking at two new starters on the offensive line between the three guys they lost. Erik Pears, a veteran signing from Buffalo, has played both guard and tackle, but his recent work at tackle far outclasses his last season at guard (-25.0). Other possible contributors include the likes of Brandon Thomas (though he’s never played an NFL down) and Joe Looney (406 career snaps). Reggie Bush signed with San Francisco this offseason and should cover some of Gore’s snaps, with an increase in playing time from Carlos Hyde accounting for most of the rest. Former Raven Torrey Smith should be an every-down starter, but with almost 1400 snaps to replace, the 49ers will need someone to step up into the No. 3 role. Bruce Ellington and Quinton Patton could see an increase in play time, though Jerome Simpson could push for snaps as well.
FTE Lost: 4.24, 32nd
Biggest Losses: Perish Cox (965), Chris Culliver (839), Justin Smith (715), Ray McDonald (713), Chris Borland (487), Dan Skuta (398), Patrick Willis (352)
Summary – It doesn’t get any better on defense, where a rash of retirements launch the 49ers to the bottom of the pack in defensive FTE Lost. Smith called it quits on a terrific 14-year career despite strong play (+15.6) at age 35. The team elected not to re-sign fellow defensive end McDonald amid off field concerns — he briefly caught on with Chicago before another such incident saw him cut. Willis shocked everyone, retiring in the prime of his career, while Borland hung up the cleats after just one year. Cox took his talents to Tennessee, while Culliver inked a four-year deal in Washington, each after spending three years in San Francisco. Skuta further weakened the linebacker corps, signing with Jacksonville on a five-year deal.
Replacement Plan – After playing sparingly in his rookie year, Jimmie Ward is a lock to increase on his 270 snaps from last year, likely spending much of his time covering the slot. There’s a second cornerback position to fill, where Tramaine Brock should increase on the 84 snaps he played in an injury-filled 2014. He’s not played well recently, but San Francisco brought in Shareece Wright from San Diego, and he may occupy the nickel role or even nab the starting spot. First-round pick Arik Armstead will have to be a big contributor from Day 1 at end, but in replacing both Smith and McDonald they’ll need more from guys like Quinton Dial and Tank Carradine, who combined for less than 500 snaps last year. If NaVorro Bowman has recovered completely from the brutal knee injury he sustained in the 2013 playoffs, he’ll be an every-down player that should cover the snaps of both Willis and Borland. In a similar vein, if Aldon Smith can be on the field for 16 games, the loss of Skuta will be a nonfactor.