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.
Projected Lineups: San Francisco 49ers
A 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.
– 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 overthecap.com), 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.
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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Ben Stockwell | 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.