My breakdown is as follows:
QB: Slight upgrade. Last year was a sophomore slump for Kaepernick, in combination with a lack of real targets in the WR corps. I expect big things from Kaepernick this year.
RB: Slight upgrade. I question whether Gore will be as effective, but I have to think that either Lattimore or Hyde will step in as a solid #2 that will have a significant impact in our running attack.
WR: Significant upgrade. Crabtree, Boldin and Johnson are healthy. Last year we were wondering if AJ Jenkins would be starting alongside Boldin. We have a very solid (while not spectacular) top 3 WR's. After seeing what happened last year, I'm ok with that. I do wish we were in the "major upgrade" category by drafting a stud speed WR in the draft, but, I do understand that the price was too high, and it's certainly not the end of the world that we didn't especially considering that any WR drafted would have likely had only a minor impact on game day anyway.
TE: Slight upgrade. Vernon Davis will be the same. Vance McDonald will be in year two. He struggled a little adjusting to the passing game, but I expect him to improve as he gets more comfortable in our system.
Offensive line: Likely slight upgrade. I am very excited with the opportunity to improve our C position. That said, at one time Goodwin was pro-bowl player. Also, he was the captain of our offensive line and was responsible for making the play-calls at the line. I am a little concerned with the prospect of a rookie center being in charge of our o-line at CLink, although in the big scheme of things this is really a very minor concern. That said, Goodwin was clearly declining, and I think we can upgrade him. Also, we have added some significant depth this year. Snyder is all but gone, and the prospect of a short-term injury or two is hardly terrifying considering our depth.
Defensive line: Same. Justin Smith is the heart and soul of our offensive line. While he is not the same player he was in 2012, he is still pretty damn good. Still, you have to expect a little more decline from the Cowboy. We will likely more than make up for that with the addition of Carradine, the return of Williams, and a healthy Ray McDonald. Possible improvements, but possibly the same.
Linebacker: Slight downgrade. Even the prospect of losing Aldon and Bow for some time does not cause me great concern. Our lineman are so strong that it frees up our linebackers to make plays, and we still have playmakers on our linebacker squad. We still have Willis and Brooks. Lemonier has flashed at times, and Borland may be a great addition. Even if Lemonier and Borland don't produce, Wilhoite and Skuta have both shown that they are more than able to "hold down the fort" until the stars return. It is undisputed that Aldon and Bow are two of the top 10 linebackers in the game, so, of course anybody else would be a downgrade.
Defensive backfield: Same. I am excited about Ward. However, we did lose Brown and Rogers, who were very solid players. I do take comfort in the fact that our front 7 takes a lot of pressure off the secondary. We have the potential to improve here, but it's way too early to tell.
Special teams: Same. Great kicker and punter. Coverage units are unknown as it's way too early in the season to know for sure (although, I think that after 2012 it will remain a focus). We have the possibility of an improvement in the KR/PR game, but there is nobody yet proven.
Depth: Significant improvement. We have never had a deeper team in the Harbaugh era. I expect many of the players we release will end up on other rosters.
[ Edited by Wisconsin49erfan on May 16, 2014 at 9:40 PM ]