Projected Lineups: San Francisco 49ers

Though the Niners don't have much cap space, they return perhaps the league's most talented roster and are certainly capable of making another strong playoff run.

| 3 years ago

Projected Lineups: San Francisco 49ers

32-lineups-SFA third straight season with 10 or more wins and a third straight trip to the conference championship.

After a decade in the wilderness, the 49ers are back and this is our look at their lineup heading into free agency as our tour of the league’s 32 teams heads out West. Averaging a dozen wins in the last three seasons it will come as no surprise as you scroll down to our chart to see it littered with greens and blues.

There is perhaps no more talented team in the league from top to bottom and through not overspending, the 49ers aren’t in a position where their window is closing on them for fear of having to jettison weighty contracts. Most teams would be happy to go into the season with the roster in the state that the 49ers are entering the league year but they have an offseason to augment, adjust, and head into 2014 stronger and hungry to go a stage further and finish the deal at the fourth time around.

–  Player markers are colored per class on a six-step ‘Poor’ to ‘High Quality’ scale based on their overall performance and the league’s elite are marked separately in blue.
–  Colored outlines suggest a potential change in class.
–  Underlined players will be 30+ years old for the 2014 season.
–  Red player names suggest injury risks.
–  Click on the image to enlarge.

Lineup SF

Roster Notes

– The biggest disruption to the green running through the 49ers’ roster is that splurge of blue in their linebacking corps. No team in the league boasts a similar concentration of elite players as forms the spine of the 49ers’ defense. Aldon Smith rebounded from difficulties off the field to have yet another productive season on the edge while Patrick Willis is in grave danger of being one of the league’s most overlooked and under-rated players with few people seemingly willing to include him among the league’s very best linebackers.

– On the offensive line the 49ers didn’t hit the heights of their 2012 campaign but that didn’t stop them from having more success in shutting down Robert Quinn than just about any other team in the league. Joe Staley handled Quinn the first time around in Week 4 (+6.2) and then Alex Boone in the return matchup in Week 13 limited Quinn to one of his quietest pass rushing days of the season.

– Up front on defense the 49ers are no longer the dominant force they used to be but they have consistency across the front and you still get very little room or time to work against them. Justin Smith re-discovered some of his best pass rushing form this season while Ray McDonald and Glenn Dorsey led the charge in run defense. Depth is one area for concern, however, with the likes of Tony Jerod-Eddie and Demarcus Dobbs nothing more than solid and a step back from the starting trio.

– A year ago the 49ers pulled off a coup getting Anquan Boldin on the cheap from the Ravens and that proved to be a prescient move when Michael Crabtree tore his Achilles tendon during OTAs. That was only a one-year fix and though many like the promise of Quinton Patton entering his second season, the 49ers’ receiver corps is wafer thin and in need of an injection of talent and production to ensure pressure doesn’t mount on Crabtree and Vernon Davis to carry the passing attack in 2014.

2014 Cap Situation

The 49ers will start the league year under the cap by $5.5 million dollars (according to, among the league’s lowest cap spaces entering 2014. That still represents some wiggle room and with an already talent-laden roster they wouldn’t have been too eager to go out and spend big in free agency anyhow.

Potential Casualties

If the 49ers wish to create cap room by cuts rather than restructures they could look to part ways with Carlos Rogers and get younger at corner. Releasing Rogers offers the 49ers a $5.1 million saving on his current $8.1 million cap number. After a strong first season in San Francisco (+14.4) Rogers has regressed towards his performance level in Washington and now might be the right time for the 49ers to jump off.

Opportunities from the Roster

At corner the 49ers have demonstrated great depth on the outside in the last two seasons with Tramaine Brock (+9.0) following up this season on what Chris Culliver (+5.7) showed during San Francisco’s Super Bowl run a year ago. Elsewhere the 49ers will also get a first look at two of last year’s draft picks with Tank Carradine and Marcus Lattimore due to make their returns from injury this season after missing their entire rookie seasons. It’s a mark of what a strong roster this is that the 49ers weren’t found wanting for talent in spite of getting zero snaps from two of their top six draft picks.


Projected lineups by team:



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| Director of Analysis

Ben joined Pro Football Focus in 2007, and has since been in charge of the company’s analysis process. He also contributes to PFF’s weekly NFL podcast.

  • Desse

    I think they should cut Frank Gore. Would cap off the hook for 6,45mil$. They have talent behind and could another guy up or draft someone.

  • Angyair

    Joe Staley not elite?

    • JD

      Agreed, should at least have a blue outline there

  • NYNinerfan

    So you’re predicting Anquan Boldin won’t be with the team next year? Fail.

    • Genus

      It’s pretty obvious they’re listing just the guys under contract at this point

  • 49ers Fan

    Thank you for noticing how underrated Patrick Willis is. The guy’s the best LB in football but nobody recognizes it, and instead worships Kuechly. Willis will go down as a top 3 ILB in NFL history and his greatness is flying under the radar all because of the media.

    • ZackD

      underrated? Interesting claim:
      6x AP all pro
      7x pro bowl
      Rookie of the year award
      3x NFL alumni LB of the year
      Signed 50m contract in 2010 which made him the highest paid LB at the time
      But yeah, no one recognizes his greatness….

      • 49ers Fan

        Yeah but with all those accolades no one talks about him. Everything is about Kuechly. For a likely top 3 MLB in HISTORY by the time he retires, he is flying under the radar in terms of the media recognizing him.

        • ZackD

          That media who doesn’t recognize him, voted him all pro 6 out of 7 years he’s been in the nfl. First time 5 times, so basically he’s been rated the #1 lb in there league by the media basically since he stepped onto an nfl field.

          Underrated is not the same as not being on espn talk shows. Patrick Willis gets voted top lb year in and year out by the media, fans and coaches.

          • Thomas James

            Don’t worry about the media, they tend to go for a flashy over steady elite player on every team. Thus why Tony Romo gains x10 more attention than Demarcus Ware or Tim Tebow completely overshadowed Champ Bailey in Denver a few years back. As long as you, myself, the 49ers, the Hall of Fame, and the rest of the NFL know he is a great player then he will be alright. 😉

        • Hannah Hayes

          Kuechly is the new thing. Willis is old news, but old news is certainly not bad news.

        • Scott@Seattle

          There’s nothing to talk about, he’s too good. Nobody has an opposing opinion.

    • That Man

      Kuechly wouldn’t even start for the 49ers.

  • Chris

    Why does Patton have negative potential? I’m guessing that’s supposed to be a yellow circle around the orange one.

    • RickDrummond

      oof, yep. fixed.

  • vick

    “Depth is one area for concern, however, with the likes of Tony Jerod-Eddie and Demarcus Dobbs nothing more than solid and a step back from the starting trio.”

    So of course this team doesn’t experience the 12+ guys on IR thing that other teams have to go thru.

  • Hannah Hayes

    Damn! This team is STACKED!

  • Sean

    No mentioning Ian Williams? Was starting over Dorsey and will be front-runner for starting nose tackle this year. Lump him into a D line with J.Smith, McDonald, Jerod-Eddie, Carradine, Dorsey, and Dial, and this team is stacked up front. Def not a weakness going forward.

  • Jeffrey Hannah

    Joe Staley and Mike Iupati should be elite. I seriously do not understand how these people come up with these ratings and evaluation. Eli Manning got a dark green rating and Brady isnt elite…these people are nuts?!?!