Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports



Pro Football Focus isn't handing out any awards based on potential. The analytics site released a ranking of the front sevens for all 32 NFL teams and while the 49ers' group has potential to be much improved, it wasn't enough to keep them from being ranked last in the NFL.

Louis Benjamin of Pro Football Focus had the following to say about the 49ers' front seven:

"The 49ers will be the darkhouse candidate for possibility of most improvement this year. They'll be banking on rookies Solomon Thomas and Reuben Foster, each first round picks, while San Francisco will also hope for a re-emerging season from edge defender Aaron Lynch. With the ageless veteran Elvis Dumervil and Navorro Bowman guiding them, this team could be solid on the front seven. Key word, could, as we just don't know yet."

The 49ers have addressed the defensive line with their top pick in the past three drafts. In 2015, they selected Arik Armstead. In 2016, they selected DeForest Buckner. In 2017, the team used the third overall selection to pick Solomon Thomas.

The team is also banking on a healthy Bowman returning from a torn Achilles that limited his 2016 season to just four games. Foster, another first-round draft pick from April, figures to fill a role that the team has lacked since the retirement of Patrick Willis following the 2014 season. San Francisco also signed linebacker Malcolm Smith from the Oakland Raiders.

The 49ers also brought in Dumervil, who figures to be an important part of the 49ers defense on passing downs. He started just three games in 2016 and appeared in just eight due to a foot injury.

Armstead, who was drafted as a defensive lineman, has been taking reps at the team's Leo position during the offseason. He was the 49ers' second-highest graded pass rusher last season behind just Buckner, according to Pro Football Focus. However, a shoulder injury that had plagued him since training camp ended his season early.

Lynch's game fell off last season. During his first two seasons in the NFL, Lynch accumulated 12.5 sacks as the team's most productive pass-rusher. He had just 1.5 sacks in 2016 after missing the first four games for violating the NFL substance abuse policy and dealing with a high ankle sprain later in the season – forcing him to miss five more games.

Any improvement from 2016 will be a welcome one, especially when it comes to stopping the run. The 49ers defense ranked last in the league in that category allowing 2,654 yards on the group, which eclipsed a franchise record.