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PFT preseason power rankings No. 29: San Francisco 49ers

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The 49ers’ downward spiral that began with the ousting of Jim Harbaugh as head coach following the 2014 season has finally bottomed out. Now the 49ers are hoping they can pick up the pieces and surge back forward under new management both in the front office and on the sidelines.

For the first time since the 49ers began to slip from the top of the league in 2014, there is legitimate optimism about the future of the franchise. However, that positive outlook for the future likely won’t include the upcoming campaign. The roster that remains is still lacking in top-tier talent in too many places. And while John Lynch’s first draft class provides a well-rounded infusion of young talent to the roster, it’s not likely to be enough to pull the 49ers out of the NFC West cellar.

But the train appears to be back on the tracks for now, which is a step in the right direction.

Biggest positive change: Trent Baalke is no longer making decisions related to the football team. The 49ers finally parted ways with their former G.M. after last season, bringing John Lynch into the fold instead. Baalke had whiffed on a large number of his draft picks in recent years. The most glaring was his 2012 class headlined by A.J. Jenkins that saw the entire seven-man class out of San Francisco within three seasons. The 49ers didn’t have replacements in place for aging stars such as Justin Smith and Patrick Willis, and Aldon Smith, Ray McDonald and Bruce Miller provided repeated off-the-field issues for the team. It’s left the 49ers roster a shell of its former self.

Biggest negative change: While it ultimately became an inevitability, the departure of Colin Kaepernick as starting quarterback has left the 49ers with low-ceiling options at the most important position on the field. While Kaepernick had his struggles in recent seasons, he also had two very solid years as a starter in 2013-14. Brian Hoyer and Matt Barkley don’t exactly bring excitement to the position and haven’t done enough in their careers to suggest a breakthrough is coming. Maybe C.J. Beathard develops in time, but it leaves the 49ers without a real long-term solution at quarterback in the interim.

Coaching thermometer: With a complete regime change in place, Kyle Shanahan’s hot seat is nonexistent. After moving onto their fourth head coach in the last four seasons, Shanahan will get plenty of time to implement his new system and let Lynch rebuild the roster to best suit its functions. Jed York needs to give the group time to grow and turn the franchise around.

We’d like to crack a beer with . . . Navorro Bowman. The stalwart of the 49ers defense has been through the good times and the bad in the Bay Area. Perhaps the best defensive player in the NFL not named J.J. Watt prior to his devastating knee injury in the 2013 playoffs, Bowman continues to produce for the 49ers even after missing an entire year recovering from injury.

How they can prove us wrong: It would take a lot. Brian Hoyer builds upon his five starts last year in Chicago and performs at a league-average or better level. Carlos Hyde finally stays healthy and provides the consistent ground attack the 49ers need to take pressure off the passing game. Reuben Foster’s shoulder stays intact and allows him to compete for Rookie of the Year honors. Arik Armstead and DeForest Buckner find homes in the 49ers’ new 4-3 scheme to take their games to a higher level.

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42 Responses to “PFT preseason power rankings No. 29: San Francisco 49ers”
  1. nhpats says: Jul 11, 2017 3:21 PM

    SF should be ahead of the Colts

  2. ninefingers9 says: Jul 11, 2017 3:27 PM

    Remember when the 9’ers had Superbowl aspirations? So cute.

    #Kaep

  3. The Phantom Stranger says: Jul 11, 2017 3:28 PM

    While Kaepernick had his struggles in recent seasons, he also had two very solid years as a starter in 2013-14.
    ________

    Yeah, three years ago, he was solid. And Ryan Fitzpatrick was great in 2015. Where are all the articles about him?

  4. admissionhacker says: Jul 11, 2017 3:30 PM

    If either Trubisky, Watson, or Mahomes has a decent year while the 49ers struggle, the honeymoon is over for Lynchahan.

  5. nevyn49 says: Jul 11, 2017 3:36 PM

    admissionhacker says:
    Jul 11, 2017 3:30 PM

    If either Trubisky, Watson, or Mahomes has a decent year while the 49ers struggle, the honeymoon is over for Lynchahan.

    =============

    Not really, none of the niners fans wanted any of those guys, whereas some niners fans are already high on the 2018 QBs.

    It will take 2-3 and the cousins or 2018 draft QB situation to shake out before the honeymoon has a chance at ending.

  6. The Phantom Stranger says: Jul 11, 2017 3:38 PM

    On what planet is Colin Kaepernick head and shoulders above Brian Hoyer? Here are their stats for the last two seasons:

    Kaepernick: 21 games, 59.1% completions, 3,856 yards, 6.71 ypa, 22 TDs, 9 INT, 85.5 passer rating.

    Hoyer: 17 games, 62.9% completions, 4,051 yards, 7.12 ypa, 25 TDs, 7 INT, 93.7 passer rating.

    Hoyer is a much better passer than Kaepernick. Kaepernick is a much better runner, but last I checked you needed your QB to be able to pass. You can’t count on running.

  7. YuriTestikov says: Jul 11, 2017 3:43 PM

    Lynch had a great first draft but this team is a mess

  8. hawkstradamus says: Jul 11, 2017 3:43 PM

    Let’s make one thing clear. The 49ers didn’t “slip” as the author stated. They were destroyed and utterly humiliated by the Seattle Seahawks.

  9. bullcharger says: Jul 11, 2017 3:47 PM

    I agree with this, but given where the 49ers were just 3 years ago, this seems crazy.

  10. charliecharger says: Jul 11, 2017 3:50 PM

    Kaepernick basically jumped onto the field, with no experience, and led the 49ers to the super bow. The next year he led them right back to the NFC Championship game in Seattle. The 49ers came very close to winning both those games. And he did that with hardly any experience. Most HOF QBs took at least 3-4 years to get going. But the 49ers self-imploded before Kaepernick had a chance to fully develop under Harbaugh. The implosion also caused such studs as Patrick Willis and Justin Smith to race for the exit signs. Then Jed York hired Jim Tomsula to coach the team. Then they brought in Chip Kelly. Tough circumstances for a young QB. No intelligent person could have been watching all this and come away with the perception that Kaepernick couldn’t play QB. There is no need to project, or guess. He’s already led his team to the super bowl. The proof that no owners think Kaepernick is a bad QB, is the fact that they’re not running out and offering Jim Harbaugh $20 million a year. I mean, if Harbaugh could coach a bad QB to that much success, he’s worth more than his weight in gold. Everyone is a coward and afraid to admit the way they really feel. Kaepernick is the only one with any courage. He’s the real American hero.

  11. tyelee says: Jul 11, 2017 3:52 PM

    So this means that the Rams, buccaneers and Jaguars should make a rare appearance in the mid-20s of a ranking…
    How many weeks before they fall back down…

  12. bearaholic1 says: Jul 11, 2017 3:53 PM

    Did you forget the Jets ???

  13. raiderinva says: Jul 11, 2017 3:59 PM

    If I was Mike McCartney, the agent for Kirk Cousins, I would see to it that this post made it to Redskins Park. C.J. Who?

    Dan Snyder is going to over pay Mr. Cousins simply to derail Kyle Shanahan. Danny Boy will have his QB simply out of spite.

  14. haywoodjablomey says: Jul 11, 2017 4:10 PM

    The Niners won’t be down here in the rankings for long. Low 20’s to mid-teens to round out the season, I’d bet.

  15. ronfai says: Jul 11, 2017 4:19 PM

    Speaking of spite sounds like you wrote this post out of spite (Raiders fan). Cousins wants to come to SF , hence why he’s unsigned. 49ers in 2018 playoffs – book it.

    ———–

    If I was Mike McCartney, the agent for Kirk Cousins, I would see to it that this post made it to Redskins Park. C.J. Who?

    Dan Snyder is going to over pay Mr. Cousins simply to derail Kyle Shanahan. Danny Boy will have his QB simply out of spite.

  16. collectordude says: Jul 11, 2017 4:21 PM

    charliecharger says:
    Jul 11, 2017 3:50 PM
    Kaepernick basically jumped onto the field, with no experience, and led the 49ers to the super bow. The next year he led them right back to the NFC Championship game in Seattle. The 49ers came very close to winning both those games. And he did that with hardly any experience. Most HOF QBs took at least 3-4 years to get going. But the 49ers self-imploded before Kaepernick had a chance to fully develop under Harbaugh. The implosion also caused such studs as Patrick Willis and Justin Smith to race for the exit signs. Then Jed York hired Jim Tomsula to coach the team. Then they brought in Chip Kelly. Tough circumstances for a young QB. No intelligent person could have been watching all this and come away with the perception that Kaepernick couldn’t play QB. There is no need to project, or guess. He’s already led his team to the super bowl. The proof that no owners think Kaepernick is a bad QB, is the fact that they’re not running out and offering Jim Harbaugh $20 million a year. I mean, if Harbaugh could coach a bad QB to that much success, he’s worth more than his weight in gold. Everyone is a coward and afraid to admit the way they really feel. Kaepernick is the only one with any courage. He’s the real American hero.
    ————————————

    So delusional.
    But, I expect nothing less from a charger fan.

    kaepernick sucks and always will.

  17. admissionhacker says: Jul 11, 2017 4:27 PM

    YuriTestikov says:
    Jul 11, 2017 3:43 PM
    Lynch had a great first draft but this team is a mess

    ==============================

    How do you know he had a great draft? Are you psychic?

  18. crush22 says: Jul 11, 2017 4:48 PM

    nhpats says:
    Jul 11, 2017 3:21 PM
    SF should be ahead of the Colts
    ____________
    Lemme guess…………
    You’re gonna say this on every one until the Colts appear.
    Obsess much?

  19. BraceForImpact says: Jul 11, 2017 4:52 PM

    hawksuckcokus says:
    Jul 11, 2017 3:43 PM

    Let’s make one thing clear. The 49ers didn’t “slip” as the author stated. They were destroyed and utterly humiliated by the Seattle Seahacks.

    ———————————————-

    You delusional bandwagoners are hilarious. I didn’t realize Jed York and Trent Baalke worked for you neon green pukes. But if they did, that would make more sense than how utterly incompetent as these two stooges were the last couple seasons.

    On a side note, hey at least we’re only the 4th worst team in the League! Movin’ on up Niner Faithful!

  20. goodellhasabutthamster says: Jul 11, 2017 5:07 PM

    San Francisco 29ers?

  21. raiderinva says: Jul 11, 2017 5:29 PM

    ronfai says:
    Jul 11, 2017 4:19 PM

    Speaking of spite sounds like you wrote this post out of spite (Raiders fan). Cousins wants to come to SF , hence why he’s unsigned. 49ers in 2018 playoffs – book it.

    ———–

    It is what it is…. The Raiders have a GM that took care of the situation. There is no controversy or distractions with the Raiders, Derek Carr, the fans, or the media.

    I live in the center of the home of the Redskins. For what it is worth, I feel Dan Snyder would not blink at the opportunity to try and hinder a former coaches chance of being more successful then the Redskins. Especially with his second time over franchised tagged QB, who earned the first tag under that coach.

    Yes, Raider free spite will get the contract done.

  22. hamlet423 says: Jul 11, 2017 5:36 PM

    Trent Baalke had a couple of very good drafts and 49ers were very stocked on defense and offense.

    But they couldn’t put anything together until Jim Harbaugh took over as coach.

    The improvement was pretty dramatic. I mean, for a while Alex Smith was decent running that offense. With Frank Gore doing the tough running.

    If their WR could have fielded a few kicks/punts without fumbling, they could have beaten the Giants and made a SB vs the Patriots.

    They won on the road vs the Falcons and made the SB.

    49ers lost a tough game on the road vs the Seahawks.

    Then Baalke decided that Harbaugh was not a good enough of a coach, so tried to squeeze him, the drafts weren’t so good, and they opted to reward the coach/spy they had on Harbaugh’s staff (Tomasula) with a HC job.

    Baalke perhaps was angry Harbaugh was getting a lot more of the credit than he was. In the end, they parted ways. Harbaugh is coach until he opts to retire at michigan, and Baalke might not get another job for a while.

  23. beachsidejames says: Jul 11, 2017 6:10 PM

    Loved John Lynch as a player in Tampa…. he could put a hit on you.

  24. ak185 says: Jul 11, 2017 6:11 PM

    In what universe is Brian Hoyer a massive downgrade from Colin Kaepernick?

  25. Drunk Uncle says: Jul 11, 2017 6:15 PM

    Q: Who’s got it better than us?
    A: 28, to be exact.

  26. codythao35 says: Jul 11, 2017 6:41 PM

    They need to be ahead of the lowly Packers bc they beat the packs every time they play.

  27. thompsonway says: Jul 11, 2017 7:20 PM

    I see no improvement from last year. Even beat by the Bears! Should be 32!!!!!

  28. i thumbs down your comment says: Jul 11, 2017 7:25 PM

    raiderinva says:
    Jul 11, 2017 5:29 PM

    “There is no controversy or distractions with the Raiders,…”

    Except of course that whole moving to Las Vegas distraction.

  29. tjacks7 says: Jul 11, 2017 7:29 PM

    Some would call dumping Kaepernick one of the best moves of the offseason.

  30. pamperpro says: Jul 11, 2017 7:43 PM

    Still ranked too high.

  31. pantherpro says: Jul 11, 2017 10:56 PM

    Bye Bye Vegas Raiders. We always owned the Bay but now we really own the Bay!

    Niners Empire

  32. omeimontis says: Jul 11, 2017 11:50 PM

    I agree that Harbaugh was ousted, but not by Jed York, despite persistent claims by some in the media that York fired Harbaugh. Harbaugh quit, and as a result he did not collect a single dime of the $5 million he would have made as 49ers coach. Besides, bad coaching started with the second half of the 2014 season, when Harbaugh went 8-8 with a playoff caliber team. The two coaches who followed him threw games. The Niners are not as bad as their record of their last 3 years shows.

  33. omeimontis says: Jul 11, 2017 11:53 PM

    Kaepernick was not dumped. He opted out of his contract. He was not cut. Again, people just keep perpetrating myths.

  34. number1hawkfan says: Jul 12, 2017 1:01 AM

    Am I wrong? I thought there were more than 29 teams in the NFL. I guess there’s not because there’s no way anyone is ranked lower than the niners. Also, the downward spiral didn’t start when harbaugh left. His last year they went 8-8 and you could clearly see they were done. Harbaugh is the most overrated coach in history. Call me when he wins a championship at any level.

  35. dickroy says: Jul 12, 2017 7:25 AM

    To Low

  36. dickroy says: Jul 12, 2017 7:28 AM

    My bottom 4
    32-Jets
    31-Bears
    30-Rams
    29-Browns

  37. weepingjebus says: Jul 12, 2017 8:48 AM

    They should change their racist franchise name. The San Francisco Hypocrites would work.

  38. jgedgar70 says: Jul 12, 2017 9:02 AM

    What the 49ers roster has now is a promising class of rookies and about 47 untrained baboons. This will take a while. 4-12

  39. exhelodrvr says: Jul 12, 2017 9:58 AM

    It didn’t begin with the ousting of Harbaugh, it began with his last year as coach, when they weren’t able to get Kaepernick to adjust to the defensive adjustments and play more of a “standard” QB role.

  40. TheDPR says: Jul 12, 2017 10:02 AM

    Hoyer has shown himself to be a capable quarterback. No, he’s not a franchise-carrying quarterback, but to people who understand the NFL, that sort of QB is a luxury, not a necessity. Build a good team with a good quarterback and you’ll win a lot of games. I don’t think they’ll be good, but they’ll be ok, improving, and probably fun to watch this year.

  41. rainponcho87 says: Jul 12, 2017 2:43 PM

    I don’t think we know who the 49ers are this year. There is a lot of change up/down in the NFL year over year. You can see that in the first few games of the year when there are a lot of surprises and few people pick most of the games correctly. In 2011 everyone assumed the 49ers were going to be terrible again and they were two muffed punts away from the superbowl. Not saying that is happening again, but they have some young talent that is maturing and I wouldn’t be shocked at 8-8.

  42. ninermadman says: Jul 19, 2017 7:46 PM

    I’m cautiously optimistic about the Niners. Our rookie GM has done well to turn over the least talented roster in the NFL. Now, let’s see what our rookie head coach can do with a decent stable of running backs/TE’s, a bunch of short wide receivers, and a journeyman QB. If the Niners win 6 games this year, I will be happy.

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