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Is our Roster better right now than it was a year ago at this time?

Is our Roster better right now than it was a year ago at this time?

Originally posted by sanjo49er:
Big time comp for roster spots, even last years picks aint guarrented nothing,
Agreed it's going to be interesting!
Not sure I agree w/statements WRT the defense...last year's DL didn't have Ian Williams, Carradine or Dial (for anything worth mentioning).

I get Bowman's out for maybe half the season...but, Wilhoite's a capable b/u and between Borland and Skov, there should be enough quality depth.

Aldon may face a suspension, hard to say on that. Lemonier and Skuta are fully capable depth. Lynch should contribute...he'll have Fangio and Leavitt showing him the way.

Secondary...Rogers and Brown left. Carlos got burned repeatedly because he wasn't fast enough to keep up with the speedier WR's. Brown lost his starting job to Brock. Culliver was gone, he'll be back. Wright will have a full off-season that he didn't have last year. Cook's a big CB who was grossly misused at Minn...he, along w/Dontae Johnson will give Fangio a couple of "bigs" who can play press coverage. Jimmie Ward will make an impact...wherever he plays. Bethea is the perfect compliment to Reid. Cox is also there for depth. I think this secondary has the potential to be considerably better than last year's.

On offense, I can see Marcus Martin winning the C job. Kilgore will give him a battle, but MM's a huge presence in the middle of the OL. This dude's a real baller. The OL depth should be better than last year...Jonathan Martin, Kilgore, Seymour, Marquardt. Snyder's gone.

WR corps has dramatically improved. Lloyd and Stevie Johnson are savvy, experienced pass-catchers. Patton should contribute a lot more. Ellington really provides a missing element...a fast slot WR who has KR skills. We had that w/Kyle Williams (when healthy), but I see BE with a much higher ceiling.

RB corps is bursting w/talent. Hyde and Lattimore are the new guard. Gore will see his carries signficantly reduce, IMHO. Would love to see them extend Hunter...he's a terrific change-of-pace guy.

QB position should be stronger w/Kap...if they carry 2 QB's, I think Josh Johnson can outplay Gabbert and emerge as the #2.

All that said, it's really premature to answer the question...much can and will unfold to clarify who the real contenders/pretenders are. Legalities may have a bearing on who's available...some players will seize opportunities, some won't. The end result should be the best top-to-bottom roster in many years.
Originally posted by cciowa:
Originally posted by BrianGO:
Originally posted by Paul_Hofer:
The Niners' backups are better. The starters are about the same.


Very succinct way of seeing it.

But very true. ck is a starter who will be better at the start of the year than what he was at the end of the year,,, and that is no knock on the way he played at the end of the year. i totally doubt the older guys like justin and gore falter. I think they maintain their play and leadership.the kids who played last year like the lemon man will be better to
Based on personnel only, since the quality of the guys on the field will mostly be unchanged (Crabtree=Bowman), then the team's production will equal that of last year, but not succeed it. The team will be better at replacing starters who fail or fall to injury.
there should be a option for a wash off-season. You should also take into account not just departures and additions, but also player improvement and decline...based on age and other observations from previous seasons

positives
I could see all of last years top picks improving a great deal, especially Reid whom could be on his way to one of the best
Kaep I think will be much better
Cully I think still has untapped potential

negatives
Justin Smith, Cowboy could begin a stark decline at any moment
Gore, could begin a stark decline at any moment
ILB, something tells me Willis/Bowman may not be super this season
K/P Andy Lee I think has been slowly declining, and our kickers are perpetually on the cusp of falling off the face of the earth(because we love signing one old ass dude with another)

Overall I think we are better because mainly Kaep should be entering his prime right now.

1. Kaep hitting his prime
2. Stevie and to a lesser degree Patton
3. More than ready to replace aged vets with youngsters right behind them

Niners have an excellent shot at #6
Originally posted by OregonNiner87:
NC's one of my favorite posters in Ninertalk, but he was optimistic. That and his knowledge and insight is what makes him such a good poster though.

Yes, we have added depth, but I don't see them anywhere close to filling the shoes of MVP 1a or 1b on defense. All I see on defense is depth delaying the inevitable with the hopes that Carradine steps up or a late round pick/developmental player surprises us. Lemonier was rated the best rookie pass rusher. Hopefully that reflects inherent talent and not being surrounded by a top-tier defense.

Long term, I think we're good. But, barring any surprises, I don't see how the defense is an upgrade next season, at least through the first half of the season. And I think we're going to have trouble, more than we have in the last couple seasons, generating a pass rush with just our d-line.

ON87. Thanks for the props. I absolutely respect your opinion as well. Fight the good fight, my man.
Originally posted by CorvaNinerFan:
Not sure I agree w/statements WRT the defense...last year's DL didn't have Ian Williams, Carradine or Dial (for anything worth mentioning).

I get Bowman's out for maybe half the season...but, Wilhoite's a capable b/u and between Borland and Skov, there should be enough quality depth.

Aldon may face a suspension, hard to say on that. Lemonier and Skuta are fully capable depth. Lynch should contribute...he'll have Fangio and Leavitt showing him the way.

Secondary...Rogers and Brown left. Carlos got burned repeatedly because he wasn't fast enough to keep up with the speedier WR's. Brown lost his starting job to Brock. Culliver was gone, he'll be back. Wright will have a full off-season that he didn't have last year. Cook's a big CB who was grossly misused at Minn...he, along w/Dontae Johnson will give Fangio a couple of "bigs" who can play press coverage. Jimmie Ward will make an impact...wherever he plays. Bethea is the perfect compliment to Reid. Cox is also there for depth. I think this secondary has the potential to be considerably better than last year's.

On offense, I can see Marcus Martin winning the C job. Kilgore will give him a battle, but MM's a huge presence in the middle of the OL. This dude's a real baller. The OL depth should be better than last year...Jonathan Martin, Kilgore, Seymour, Marquardt. Snyder's gone.

WR corps has dramatically improved. Lloyd and Stevie Johnson are savvy, experienced pass-catchers. Patton should contribute a lot more. Ellington really provides a missing element...a fast slot WR who has KR skills. We had that w/Kyle Williams (when healthy), but I see BE with a much higher ceiling.

RB corps is bursting w/talent. Hyde and Lattimore are the new guard. Gore will see his carries signficantly reduce, IMHO. Would love to see them extend Hunter...he's a terrific change-of-pace guy.

QB position should be stronger w/Kap...if they carry 2 QB's, I think Josh Johnson can outplay Gabbert and emerge as the #2.

All that said, it's really premature to answer the question...much can and will unfold to clarify who the real contenders/pretenders are. Legalities may have a bearing on who's available...some players will seize opportunities, some won't. The end result should be the best top-to-bottom roster in many years.

I couldn't agree more. I think people are over-estimating the production of Justin Smith last year and seem to be bracing for a long-term suspension (and LT suspension in the NFL is only 2-4 games usually) for Aldon. We were 5-0 w/o Aldon and have more experience with Skuta and Lemonier now and will now be adding Lynch to that rotation AND potentially Carradine rushing in front of them. Last year we sub'd out Justin more than we ever have and lost very little, if anything with the likes of true backups such as TJE and Dobbs. Now we'll be adding a healthy Carradine and Dial and even Williams to this mix inside. In short, we're fine and the ceiling is much higher for the "backups." A guy like Carradine, Williams and perhaps, Lemonier/Lynch are actually looked at as potential starters right now who just happen to be playing behind an aged HOF in Justin and a highly-productive OLB in Aldon.

As to the secondary, it seems like fans have lost their crutch but aren't looking at the reality completely. Fans in here are acting like we just lost 3 all-pros and the guys behind them, who will now be starters, are rookies. That simply isn't the case at all. Brock and Culliver ARE starters and have been over the past 2 years (nickle/slot/#1/#2) and both clearly outplayed the older veterans who choose to leave to the only team that truly wanted them...the Raiders. Enough said. And the depth behind them should be MUCH improved with a full off season and a full year in the system in Wright and Morris (plus Cox who has years of experience with us). Bethea is really, the only one who may take some time to learn the system but I think with more press and single-high S schemes, we'll most likely play to his strengths in and around the box (which IS an upgrade over Whitner). Ward? He is going to be dynamic in the nickle/slot and will add a lateral and coverage/range dimensions we haven't seen here before.

So relax people, and watch these units COMPETE and become even more dynamic than what we've come to expect year-in, year-out. The thing you will see right off the bat is the number of deflected balls and INT's and forced fumbles go WAY up compared to the previous regime.
[ Edited by NCommand on May 19, 2014 at 12:56 PM ]
All I know is, cut down day is going to be brutal. Nobody here is going to be happy. We are going to cut a lot of guys, and some may start elsewhere. I hope just not a lot.
Man, this is one of the better threads in recent memory....at least my recent memory...

NCommand...love the posts and positive waves.
Oregon9er...nice insights as always
Corva...also some good points

On paper (and that is really all we have to go by at this point, gentlemen), it appears the Niners are better if for no other reason than the "depth players" are younger and more talented. However, talent is not always the measure of a truly great team. I have felt that the Niners have had as much or more talent than any team in the league the past 3 years but they have yet to win a SB.
Luck is often involved......avoiding key injuries, getting a couple of key calls by the refs at the right time, having a fumble bounce right into a Niner's hands at the right moment. I think the 9ers win the SB in 2012 if Cowboy is 100% and the refs don't blow the call on the kick return. I think they beat the Giants in 2011 in the NFC Championship game if the refs don't blow the fumble non call ("forward progress") in the last 2 minutes of that game. Finally, I think they beat Seattle last year if the refs don't blow a couple of key calls (the roughing the punter non call in particular)... What I'm saying is that winning a championship depends on so many factors, many of which have nothing to do with talent.

Now, all of that stated (still with me?... ), I think this roster is loaded but I also think the team still depends on guys like Cowboy and Gore and if they tail off this season, the Niners could struggle for awhile while their eventual replacements (Tank, Hyde) adjust to the NFL. Remember, Tank, Dial, and Lattimore will essentially be rookies this year and there is no guarantee that Lattimore will be really healthy. That was a ridiculous injury he had. I'm more optimistic now that the team drafted Hyde, who is just a bigger version of Gore....great vision, great feet, tough as nails, and loves the game. Also, Hunter will likely get better because he will be a year removed from his serious injury

So, to sum up...

Areas that the team obviously got better:
WR, OL, RB, QB, and S / slot CB (well documented by others...much greater depth and hopefully, health)

Areas that the team likely improved:
CB (with 3 draft picks all of whom are fast and athletic)

Areas that will probably stay about the same:
TE (Vernon may lose a half step but Vance will probably improve), DL (Cowboy and McD take a step back but with healthy versions of Tank, Dial, and Williams coming into the mix, the team should still be solid here)

Areas that will likely take a step back:
LB (I hate to be the pessimist here but I don't believe that Bowman will play at 100% this season, period. That was a bad injury he had and I just don't think that he will be fully recovered until the following season. The team has decent depth now but let's face it....Bow when healthy is an absolute stud and game changer and simply can't be replaced. Let us also not forget that Brooks is now 30+ and so he may take a step back too. Aldon is also likely to be suspended for at least 4 games. I'm just saying that even though the Niners took good steps to fill the gaps at LB, they may not be enough. As a result, with the front seven not being quite as strong as in recent years, I can see the secondary (even with younger, faster guys) struggle at times this season).

Now, the biggest question is this....do the Niners have enough to beat Seattle? To that I would answer.....YES! Now, if only the damn refs would get the calls RIGHT!!

Cheers!
[ Edited by nw9erfan on May 19, 2014 at 11:20 PM ]
Originally posted by pasodoc9er:
All I know is, cut down day is going to be brutal. Nobody here is going to be happy. We are going to cut a lot of guys, and some may start elsewhere. I hope just not a lot.


This is so true. If you really think about it, it's pretty amazing how far this team has come in just the last 5 years. Even more amazing considering that just 10 years ago we were almost at expansion team levels of talent.
[ Edited by Niners816 on May 19, 2014 at 11:55 PM ]
Originally posted by nw9erfan:
Man, this is one of the better threads in recent memory....at least my recent memory...

NCommand...love the posts and positive waves.
Oregon9er...nice insights as always
Corva...also some good points

On paper (and that is really all we have to go by at this point, gentlemen), it appears the Niners are better if for no other reason than the "depth players" are younger and more talented. However, talent is not always the measure of a truly great team. I have felt that the Niners have had as much or more talent than any team in the league the past 3 years but they have yet to win a SB.
Luck is often involved......avoiding key injuries, getting a couple of key calls by the refs at the right time, having a fumble bounce right into a Niner's hands at the right moment. I think the 9ers win the SB in 2012 if Cowboy is 100% and the refs don't blow the call on the kick return. I think they beat the Giants in 2011 in the NFC Championship game if the refs don't blow the fumble non call ("forward progress") in the last 2 minutes of that game. Finally, I think they beat Seattle last year if the refs don't blow a couple of key calls (the roughing the punter non call in particular)... What I'm saying is that winning a championship depends on so many factors, many of which have nothing to do with talent.

Now, all of that stated (still with me?... ), I think this roster is loaded but I also think the team still depends on guys like Cowboy and Gore and if they tail off this season, the Niners could struggle for awhile while their eventual replacements (Tank, Hyde) adjust to the NFL. Remember, Tank, Dial, and Lattimore will essentially be rookies this year and there is no guarantee that Lattimore will be really healthy. That was a ridiculous injury he had. I'm more optimistic now that the team drafted Hyde, who is just a bigger version of Gore....great vision, great feet, tough as nails, and loves the game. Also, Hunter will likely get better because he will be a year removed from his serious injury

So, to sum up...

Areas that the team obviously got better:
WR, OL, RB, QB, and S / slot CB (well documented by others...much greater depth and hopefully, health)

Areas that the team likely improved:
CB (with 3 draft picks all of whom are fast and athletic)

Areas that will probably stay about the same:
TE (Vernon may lose a half step but Vance will probably improve), DL (Cowboy and McD take a step back but with healthy versions of Tank, Dial, and Williams coming into the mix, the team should still be solid here)

Areas that will likely take a step back:
LB (I hate to be the pessimist here but I don't believe that Bowman will play at 100% this season, period. That was a bad injury he had and I just don't think that he will be fully recovered until the following season. The team has decent depth now but let's face it....Bow when healthy is an absolute stud and game changer and simply can't be replaced. Let us also not forget that Brooks is now 30+ and so he may take a step back too. Aldon is also likely to be suspended for at least 4 games. I'm just saying that even though the Niners took good steps to fill the gaps at LB, they may not be enough. As a result, with the front seven not being quite as strong as in recent years, I can see the secondary (even with younger, faster guys) struggle at times this season).

Now, the biggest question is this....do the Niners have enough to beat Seattle? To that I would answer.....YES! Now, if only the damn refs would get the calls RIGHT!!

Cheers!

Very very good post and I agree with it. So many factors for why we lost the big games (TO's, poor personnel decisions, poor play calling/situational awareness, key injuries, critical calls against us at critical times, inability to adjust on-the-fly, stubbornness, very slow starts, poor half time adjustments, ST coaching, lack of our own dynamic returner, etc.). Talent has been top 1 or 2 in the NFL the past 3 years even with injuries (as many were well known prior to the season starting with plenty of time to adapt/adjust; many had zero effect on the results i.e. w/o Aldon, we were 5-0). I'd have to say overall, again, there is no question we are the most talented and deepest roster in the NFL. As to "upgrades" on starters there are a few changes but the depth that will be pushing these starters is deep and very talented should there be any injuries. Also, I consider experience in our system as very strong potential as part of an "upgrade." We run very complicated systems on offense and defense and that can't be undermined here. Stevie Johnson just stated the other day that our playbook looked "Chinese" to him.

2014 Projected Starter (2013 Starter) - Depth. Rationale.
Offense:
QB: Colin Kaepernick (Same) - Josh Johnson; Blaine Gabbert; McLeod Bethel-Thompson & Kory Faulkner. Josh is a MUCH better fit for our offense and already knows our playbook. He and Gabbert should be much better than the turnstile we had last year and neither have any plans of going anywhere else anytime soon = Upgrade.
RB: Frank Gore (Same) - Kendall Hunter; Marcus Lattimore; LaMichael James, Jewel Hampton & Carlos Hyde. Let's be real here. James may not even make the team and we'll have two RB's that fit this system perfectly and should start to take up some of Gore's snaps this year. The depth is insane this year and the future looks very bright = Upgrade.
FB: Bruce Miller (Same) - Trey Millard. Last year we had Boobie Dixon and Will Tukuafu. Neither are well-rounded FB's. Millard was considered the best FB in the draft by a mile given his versatility. Also, with potentially Derrek Carrier, we now have two H-backs once Millard is healthy (more pure FB's should Miller go down) = LT Upgrade.
X: Anquan Boldin (Same) - Jon Baldwin.
Y (SLOT): Stevie Johnson (Quinton Patton) - Bruce Ellington; Chuck Jacobs & Devon Wiley
Z: Michael Crabtree (Same) - Kassim Osgood; Brandon Lloyd & David Reed. We have to remember that Boldin is now a year into our offense and he, Crabtree and Patton play all 3 WR positions. Stevie is most likely an upgrade over Patton and both Osgood and Baldwin are now experienced in our offense. Also, Ellington is gong to add an additional dimension and if we retain Lloyd, we'll have more NFL experience in case an injury occurs again = Upgrade.
TE: Vernon Davis & Vance McDonald (Same) - Garrett Celek & Derek Carrier. Coaches already admitted McDonald handled everything they gave him (b/c the focus is on blocking in this offense) and openly said they plan NOW to incorporate him into the passing game (next layer of development). If Carrier can earn that H-back role, it's going to push Celek off the roster and add much more diversity of which we haven't seen since Walker left = Upgrade.
LOT: Joe Staley (Same) - Luke Marquardt & Al Netter
ROT: Anthony Davis (Same) - Jonathan Martin & Carter Bykowski
LG: Mike Iupati (Same) - Joe Looney & Ryan Seymour
RG: Alex Boone (Same) - Adam Snyder & (Brandon Thomas)
C: Daniel Kilgore or Marcus Martin (Goodwin) - Dillon Ferrell. OT Martin, Marquardt and eventually, Thomas are huge upgrades over moving Boone from RG to OT if we have an injury. Also, Goodwin has been the weak link the past two seasons and Kilgore has been training for several years as an understudy. Now you add the best C in the draft to compete with him? Looney is now another year in and a good swing-G and for the first time, Iupati and Davis will be 100% healthy = Upgrade.

Defense:

RDE: Justin Smith (Same) - Tony Jerod-Eddie & Lawrence Okoye. TJE had a fantastic year last year and is only going to get better esp. with the competition behind him. And don't count out the magic Tomsula can create with a willing-Okoye. I expect big growth from both this year and the depth is important to continue to sub Justin out. Also, one must consider the same for additional reserves in Dial and factor in the idea that Carradine (1st round talent) will work in both DE positions = Upgrade.
LDE: Ray McDonald (Same) - DeMarcus Dobbs; Quinton Dial; Tank Carradine & Kaleb Ramsey. Dobbs had a very nice year last year and got a lot of playing time and now may not even make the roster! Dial can play DE and NT and Carradine is expected to possibly push McDonald into a backup/rotational role = Upgrade.
NT: Glenn Dorsey (Same) - Ian Williams & Mike Purcell. Williams is now 100% again and was the starter Week 1 last year. He's the slasher-NT and with the emergence of Dorsey's play, these two are going to add different skill sets and strength in splitting snaps and staying fresh = Upgrade.
WILL: Aldon Smith (Same) - Dan Skuta & Morgan Breslin
SAM: Michael Wilhoite (Bowman) - Chris Borland & Shayne Skov.
MIKE: Patrick Willis (Same) - Nick Moody.
TED: Ahmad Brooks (Same) - Corey Lemonier & Aaron Lynch. You can't lose a future HOF player in Bowman for half a year and not have a drop off. But in our case, the backup is already proven. Now we add in the 2nd best ILB in the draft plus another stud in Skov who already knows this defense like the back of his hand, and now we have tremendous depth and ST abilities. Add in Moody who's trained with CK all off season for that specialty hybrid LB/S role and we're very good/deep = Immediate Minor Dropoff but LT Upgrade in Depth. As to the OLB positons, we had the best combo in the game in Brooks/Smith. We were 5-0 without Aldon. Skuta played fantastic for us last year in Aldon's place and Lemonier should really shine even more this year and now we add Lynch and Breslin to the competition? If Aldon gets suspended for a few games = Immediate Minor Dropoff but LT Upgrade in Depth.
RCB: Tramaine Brock (Brown/Same) - Dontae Johnson & Keith Reaser. Brock outright beat out both Rogers and Brown and played both CB positions. He started most of the year and should be even better now.
LCB: Chris Culliver (Rogers) - Eric Wright; Chris Cook & Kenneth Acker.
SLOT/NICKLE: Jimmie Ward (Rogers) - Perrish Cox & Darryl Morris. Rogers continued to play half-speed and two-hand-touch football last year enjoying his monster payday thanks to Cullivers injury. Rogers would have been cut had Culliver not gone down last year. Wright was the #3 going into the playoffs but pulled a hammy badly so we brought Cox back to help and he played exceptional. As a result, Rogers was cut and both Wright and Cox were resigned. With the addition of two press-CB's in Johnson and Cook, we now have versatility and depth we've never had before. Add in future depth and talent (including return abilities) in Reaser and Acker and we're looking at a dynamic shift in how we utilize the CB position going forward. Then we went out and nabbed the best FS/CB in the draft to play the Slot/Nickle and be slowly groomed into the FS role next to Reid in the near future. Should Reid or Bethea get injured, Ward can now slide into the S role and Morris/Cox or another can play the Slot/Nickle = Upgrade.
FS: Eric Reid (Same) - C.J. Spillman; L.J. McCray & D.J. Campbell.
SS: Antoine Bethea (Whitner) - Craig Dahl & Raymond Ventrone. Reid is now the leader back there and is an excellent student of the game. That said, he's not alone even with the departure of Whitner. Bethea is also a student of the game and a very accomplished and savy veteran. With the new style of defense we're expected to play (i.e. exotic off coverage schemes mixed in with press coverage and single-high S), Bethea should have a field-day playing in and around the box esp. with the added pass rush and talent we've added to the front 7. He's also not as poor in coverage as some think. With Ward added, the experience of Dahl, Spillman and Ventrone and the added competition and return abilities of McCray and Campbell = Slight Upgrade.
[ Edited by NCommand on May 20, 2014 at 8:00 AM ]
Very nicely down NC. Complete and on the spot. I would give us an extra bump at Qb, which as you know I thot we were winging it on, should kap have a 3-4 week injury. Without Kap, we are done. We won't win it without him. But for short term injury, high ankle , hammy, jammed finger...we can win against non elites with Josh. I was sick that gabber was all that was backing him up, but the josh signing, made this one helluva draft/FA bonanza.
Originally posted by pasodoc9er:
Very nicely down NC. Complete and on the spot. I would give us an extra bump at Qb, which as you know I thot we were winging it on, should kap have a 3-4 week injury. Without Kap, we are done. We won't win it without him. But for short term injury, high ankle , hammy, jammed finger...we can win against non elites with Josh. I was sick that gabber was all that was backing him up, but the josh signing, made this one helluva draft/FA bonanza.

Yeah, agreed. I think Josh is a perfect fit for CK b/c his style is similar and he already knows our offense and let's face it, he isn't going anywhere and is nice and comfortable under Harbaugh (but still competitive enough to want and push CK). If Gabbert wins the #2 and he comes in, I think we have to change our whole offensive game plan.
yup, that was my take too, and just another reason why JH wanted gabbert. I'm sure they got their reasons, and trade bait still isn't out of the picture, but colin and gabbert play on two different planets. It just looks odd this much later. Talk about a surprise acquisition...anyway, with Josh, as you know, that made this a perfect draft. Without him, we looked like we were running around in our knickers. After a couple weeks, tho, it was obvious there had to be somebody else backing kap up. Those thinking Gabbert could step right in....unh, unh.
Originally posted by NCommand:
Very very good post and I agree with it. So many factors for why we lost the big games (TO's, poor personnel decisions, poor play calling/situational awareness, key injuries, critical calls against us at critical times, inability to adjust on-the-fly, stubbornness, very slow starts, poor half time adjustments, ST coaching, lack of our own dynamic returner, etc.). Talent has been top 1 or 2 in the NFL the past 3 years even with injuries (as many were well known prior to the season starting with plenty of time to adapt/adjust; many had zero effect on the results i.e. w/o Aldon, we were 5-0). I'd have to say overall, again, there is no question we are the most talented and deepest roster in the NFL. As to "upgrades" on starters there are a few changes but the depth that will be pushing these starters is deep and very talented should there be any injuries. Also, I consider experience in our system as very strong potential as part of an "upgrade." We run very complicated systems on offense and defense and that can't be undermined here. Stevie Johnson just stated the other day that our playbook looked "Chinese" to him.

2014 Projected Starter (2013 Starter) - Depth. Rationale.
Offense:
QB: Colin Kaepernick (Same) - Josh Johnson; Blaine Gabbert; McLeod Bethel-Thompson & Kory Faulkner. Josh is a MUCH better fit for our offense and already knows our playbook. He and Gabbert should be much better than the turnstile we had last year and neither have any plans of going anywhere else anytime soon = Upgrade.
RB: Frank Gore (Same) - Kendall Hunter; Marcus Lattimore; LaMichael James, Jewel Hampton & Carlos Hyde. Let's be real here. James may not even make the team and we'll have two RB's that fit this system perfectly and should start to take up some of Gore's snaps this year. The depth is insane this year and the future looks very bright = Upgrade.
FB: Bruce Miller (Same) - Trey Millard. Last year we had Boobie Dixon and Will Tukuafu. Neither are well-rounded FB's. Millard was considered the best FB in the draft by a mile given his versatility. Also, with potentially Derrek Carrier, we now have two H-backs once Millard is healthy (more pure FB's should Miller go down) = LT Upgrade.
X: Anquan Boldin (Same) - Jon Baldwin.
Y (SLOT): Stevie Johnson (Quinton Patton) - Bruce Ellington; Chuck Jacobs & Devon Wiley
Z: Michael Crabtree (Same) - Kassim Osgood; Brandon Lloyd & David Reed. We have to remember that Boldin is now a year into our offense and he, Crabtree and Patton play all 3 WR positions. Stevie is most likely an upgrade over Patton and both Osgood and Baldwin are now experienced in our offense. Also, Ellington is gong to add an additional dimension and if we retain Lloyd, we'll have more NFL experience in case an injury occurs again = Upgrade.
TE: Vernon Davis & Vance McDonald (Same) - Garrett Celek & Derek Carrier. Coaches already admitted McDonald handled everything they gave him (b/c the focus is on blocking in this offense) and openly said they plan NOW to incorporate him into the passing game (next layer of development). If Carrier can earn that H-back role, it's going to push Celek off the roster and add much more diversity of which we haven't seen since Walker left = Upgrade.
LOT: Joe Staley (Same) - Luke Marquardt & Al Netter
ROT: Anthony Davis (Same) - Jonathan Martin & Carter Bykowski
LG: Mike Iupati (Same) - Joe Looney & Ryan Seymour
RG: Alex Boone (Same) - Adam Snyder & (Brandon Thomas)
C: Daniel Kilgore or Marcus Martin (Goodwin) - Dillon Ferrell. OT Martin, Marquardt and eventually, Thomas are huge upgrades over moving Boone from RG to OT if we have an injury. Also, Goodwin has been the weak link the past two seasons and Kilgore has been training for several years as an understudy. Now you add the best C in the draft to compete with him? Looney is now another year in and a good swing-G and for the first time, Iupati and Davis will be 100% healthy = Upgrade.

Defense:

RDE: Justin Smith (Same) - Tony Jerod-Eddie & Lawrence Okoye. TJE had a fantastic year last year and is only going to get better esp. with the competition behind him. And don't count out the magic Tomsula can create with a willing-Okoye. I expect big growth from both this year and the depth is important to continue to sub Justin out. Also, one must consider the same for additional reserves in Dial and factor in the idea that Carradine (1st round talent) will work in both DE positions = Upgrade.
LDE: Ray McDonald (Same) - DeMarcus Dobbs; Quinton Dial; Tank Carradine & Kaleb Ramsey. Dobbs had a very nice year last year and got a lot of playing time and now may not even make the roster! Dial can play DE and NT and Carradine is expected to possibly push McDonald into a backup/rotational role = Upgrade.
NT: Glenn Dorsey (Same) - Ian Williams & Mike Purcell. Williams is now 100% again and was the starter Week 1 last year. He's the slasher-NT and with the emergence of Dorsey's play, these two are going to add different skill sets and strength in splitting snaps and staying fresh = Upgrade.
WILL: Aldon Smith (Same) - Dan Skuta & Morgan Breslin
SAM: Michael Wilhoite (Bowman) - Chris Borland & Shayne Skov.
MIKE: Patrick Willis (Same) - Nick Moody.
TED: Ahmad Brooks (Same) - Corey Lemonier & Aaron Lynch. You can't lose a future HOF player in Bowman for half a year and not have a drop off. But in our case, the backup is already proven. Now we add in the 2nd best ILB in the draft plus another stud in Skov who already knows this defense like the back of his hand, and now we have tremendous depth and ST abilities. Add in Moody who's trained with CK all off season for that specialty hybrid LB/S role and we're very good/deep = Immediate Minor Dropoff but LT Upgrade in Depth. As to the OLB positons, we had the best combo in the game in Brooks/Smith. We were 5-0 without Aldon. Skuta played fantastic for us last year in Aldon's place and Lemonier should really shine even more this year and now we add Lynch and Breslin to the competition? If Aldon gets suspended for a few games = Immediate Minor Dropoff but LT Upgrade in Depth.
RCB: Tramaine Brock (Brown/Same) - Dontae Johnson & Keith Reaser. Brock outright beat out both Rogers and Brown and played both CB positions. He started most of the year and should be even better now.
LCB: Chris Culliver (Rogers) - Eric Wright; Chris Cook & Kenneth Acker.
SLOT/NICKLE: Jimmie Ward (Rogers) - Perrish Cox & Darryl Morris. Rogers continued to play half-speed and two-hand-touch football last year enjoying his monster payday thanks to Cullivers injury. Rogers would have been cut had Culliver not gone down last year. Wright was the #3 going into the playoffs but pulled a hammy badly so we brought Cox back to help and he played exceptional. As a result, Rogers was cut and both Wright and Cox were resigned. With the addition of two press-CB's in Johnson and Cook, we now have versatility and depth we've never had before. Add in future depth and talent (including return abilities) in Reaser and Acker and we're looking at a dynamic shift in how we utilize the CB position going forward. Then we went out and nabbed the best FS/CB in the draft to play the Slot/Nickle and be slowly groomed into the FS role next to Reid in the near future. Should Reid or Bethea get injured, Ward can now slide into the S role and Morris/Cox or another can play the Slot/Nickle = Upgrade.
FS: Eric Reid (Same) - C.J. Spillman; L.J. McCray & D.J. Campbell.
SS: Antoine Bethea (Whitner) - Craig Dahl & Raymond Ventrone. Reid is now the leader back there and is an excellent student of the game. That said, he's not alone even with the departure of Whitner. Bethea is also a student of the game and a very accomplished and savy veteran. With the new style of defense we're expected to play (i.e. exotic off coverage schemes mixed in with press coverage and single-high S), Bethea should have a field-day playing in and around the box esp. with the added pass rush and talent we've added to the front 7. He's also not as poor in coverage as some think. With Ward added, the experience of Dahl, Spillman and Ventrone and the added competition and return abilities of McCray and Campbell = Slight Upgrade.
Wow....a lot of work went into this.

Well done NCommand and again, I appreciate the positive waves. I agree with probably 90% of what you have here but I don't quite share your level of optimism with the defense, in particular the LB position. As I stated earlier, Bowman probably won't be at full strength (or speed) this season. His knee injury was severe. With Willis now nearing 30 and with probably about 800 NFL tackles on his ledger, he might be due to have a bit of a drop-off, as might A Brooks, who is also around 30 now. Add to that the absence of A Smith for a few games and I think the team is going to feel it. The new guys the team has brought in (Lemonier, Moody, Skuta, Wilhoite, Borland, Skov, and Lynch) all have talent but do they have enough to compensate for the drop-offs / potential injuries? I wonder.

Now, all of that stated, the DL could actually be improved this year if Tank, Dial, and Williams hit the ground running. That level of depth could keep Cowboy and McD fresh until the playoffs. With Williams now healthy and able to keep Dorsey fresh, the NT position should be strong. If Tank can provide some pass rush, it would take some pressure off the OLBs. If the DL is indeed improved, then the defense should be very, very solid. As you all know, it all starts up front.

I also like what the Niners did with the safety position because I think Ward will be a stud. Dominated at the Senior Bowl, excellent cover guy, and just loves the game. He will earn his first round grade. The team will be more physical, more intense, and in general, better in coverage on passing downs now. The corners however, are still pretty young and inexperienced (outside of Wright and Cox and the latter may not even make the team) and that has me concerned. Hopefully, Culliver is fully recovered and ready to go but if he gets suspended, that could be a problem too.

So, to me, even though the offense is clearly better at many positions, the defense is still a pretty big question mark. It could be better, it could be worse, or it could stay at the same level. I'm obviously hoping for better but in the NFL, there are no sure things. One thing is certain however....this team will be fascinating to watch.

Thanks for all of the great posts Zoners...

Cheers!
[ Edited by nw9erfan on May 20, 2014 at 11:35 PM ]
I'm gonna say the roster isn't better than last year's roster.

The Niners had a chance to make it better at CB & KR if they signed a FA and / or drafted Dri Archer, but they didn't. I think the roster is a lot deeper, but CB was outright neglected IMO unless Dontae Johnson shocks the world and immediately dominates.

I think the offensive roster is better though. Martin > Goodwin IMO, and Stevie > Manningham. And Hyde helps a lot. And Vance has a year under his belt.