The San Francisco 49ers showed last season that the 2011 13-3 team wasn’t a fluke. With a difficult schedule the team finished 11-4-1, quarterback controversy and all. The young team boasts one of the deepest rosters in the NFL, but my question is, is it the deepest?
Going into the 2013 draft, the 49ers looked to address three key departures, and found quality players to fill all three. The 49ers addressed the loss of S Dashon Goldson immediately by trading up thirteen spots in the first round to draft Eric Reid; while the general consensus by draft analysis ranked Reid towards the end of the 1st round, management felt he was worth the jump. Back in 2011 Harbaugh chose Aldon Smith with the 7th pick in the draft when many thought he would be a mid- to late 1st round pick; so I trust in management’s analysis of draft-pool talent.
Randy Moss left, and the 49ers chose Quinton Patton, a second to third round talent, in the fourth round (not to mention their trade for Anquan Boldin). Quinton Patton should immediately impact the 49ers receiving; my favorite aspect of his game is his route running, he’s quick and catches the ball well. Patton adds to the options of Michael Crabtree, Boldin, and Mario Manningham. With Kyle Williams, A.J. Jenkins and Patton fighting to be the fourth in the mix the 49ers are clearly set at wide receiver, however, just for good measure the team currently has four additional receivers, Ricardo Lockette, Chad Hall, Joe Hastings and Marlon More who will compete to make the team.
The last vacant position 49ers addressed in the draft was back up TE. With Delanie Walker leaving to the Tennessee Titans, the 49ers chose Vance McDonald, a top ranked TE four inches taller and twenty pounds heavier than Walker.
Other than those departures the 49ers retained all their starters (only Goodson started, Walker was the second option who saw large amounts of playing time, and Moss became the clear #2 option following Manningham’s injury last year).
While the Super Bowl prevented it, the San Francisco 49ers landed the most players from any NFC team in the Pro Bowl last year in Goldson, RB Frank Gore, T Joe Staley, G Mike Iupati DE Justin Smith, MLBs Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman, OLB Aldon Smith, FS Dashon Goldson, SS Donte Whitner.
At this point, I hope I’ve established that the 49ers improved last year’s team, while adding more depth. In the question of the deepest roster in the NFL, there are only a few teams that can even compete in my mind: the Atlanta Falcons, Denver Broncos, Houston Texans, Green Bay Packers, the New England Patriots, and the Seattle Seahawks.
I’ve kept the Baltimore Ravens (departures of key defensive figures Ray Lewis and Ed Reid), New Orleans Saints (their defensive depth is lacking), and New York Giants (Cruz’s contract situation, RB injury concerns, secondary depth) out of the comparison for the reasons in brackets, even though they are all formidable teams. Also, seven teams is quite a lot to compare for depth.
Atlanta Falcons: Weakness of their defensive-line both at the DE and DT positions lowers the Falcons below the San Francisco 49ers whose defensive line only grew stronger with multiple additions from the draft including Tank Carradine. The Falcons strength at LB and RB are overshadowed by the 49ers stellar core of both MLB and OLB as well as the depth behind Frank Gore with Kendal Hunter and LaMichael James. With the hope of a healthy Lattimore after next year’s season, its safe to say the 49ers are deeper than the Atlanta Falcons.
Denver Broncos: Added Wes Welker, the 49ers added Boldin and Patton. The 49ers running back depth is matched by Denver (Moreno, Ball, McGahee, etc.), and Denver’s team looks to be the second deepest team in NFL. The loss of Dumervil at DE gives the 49ers a slight edge in the depth battle.
Houston Texans: Wide-receiving has little depth behind Andre Johnson, and TE, where the team only has injury-prone Owen Daniels.
Green Bay Packers: Could start rookie Datone Jones and second year Jerel Worthy at the defensive end position, while the loss of Charles Woodson leaves the safety position in question. A revamped offensive line will need to protect Rodgers, and questions remain as to how the different parts of the line fit together.
New England Patriots: The Patriots secondary must have a better showing than last year, but the real question is at the receiving position. While TEs Gronkowski and Hernandez will surly flourish again this year, the loss of Wes Welker leaves Danny Amendola and likely Donald Jones as Brady’s targets.
Seattle Seahawks: The addition of Antoine Winfield to play with Browner and Sherman at CB is a scary prospect for receivers around the league, but 49ers have their own three in Carlos Rodgers, Tarell Brown, and Nnamdi Asomugha; Chris Culliver is developing well at CB, and while the 49ers will likely need to address CB coming next year, they certainly have good depth for the 2013 season. Addition of Percy Harvin creates a dynamic receiving tandem for Wilson with Sidney Rice. However the 49ers WR core is deeper with Crabtree, Boldin, Manningham and Patton.