Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

ESPN ranks the 49ers No. 3 while projecting team success over the next three years

Jul 20, 2020 at 6:43 AM--

ESPN asked its own panel of experts to project the next three years and determine the best NFL teams over that timeframe. Jeremy Fowler, Louis Riddick, Seth Walder, and Field Yates rated each franchise's roster, draft, front office, and coaching staff to determine their ranking. They weighted each category using a standard grading system (100 is an A+, 90 is an A, 80 is a B, etc.) and averaged them.

The San Francisco 49ers came in third with an overall score of 86.4.

Just two teams, the Baltimore Ravens at No. 1 (an 89.4 score) and the Kansas City Chiefs at No. 2 (89.0), ranked higher than the Niners.

"Sustainability for their success is rooted in a vaunted defensive front laced with young cornerstones and an offense under the guidance of one of the best minds in football, Kyle Shanahan, featuring a standout offensive line and running game," wrote Yates.

Riddick addressed the biggest worries on the roster, naming the team's 32-year-old cornerback, Richard Sherman, along with slot corner K'Waun Williams and safety Jaquiski Tartt. Each is entering the final year of his contract.

"This unit could undergo (a) major overhaul in the next two years, and for a team that was a couple of big plays allowed away from a Super Bowl title, the 49ers need to make sure the secondary doesn't become a problem," wrote Riddick.

Fowler notes that drafting some help at cornerback will be key for the 49ers' future success on defense. Other than that, the team has minimal roster holes and is among the best in the league.

As for how the 49ers did within each category, the overall roster — minus the quarterback — ranked first in the NFL. Both coaching and draft ranked No. 4 while the front office came in at seventh. San Francisco ranked No. 12 when it comes to its quarterback.

Walder examined the top statistic to know about the 49ers and pointed to the following while also noting that the defense would, in the long-term, be unlikely to maintain the high level of performance we saw last season.

"Defenses stacked eight or more players in the box on 26% of 49ers rushes when the game's win probability was between 20% and 80% last season, the second-highest rate in the league," wrote Walder. "That's because the 49ers run at a heavy rate. But they were much more efficient passing the ball -- and in fact, even ranked higher in EPA/pass play than EPA/rush play. That suggests that the 49ers' offense has room to grow by passing more and taking advantage of those stacked boxes."

Around the NFC West, the Seattle Seahawks came in at No. 8 (81.2) within the ranking while the Los Angeles Rams sat at No. 18 (75.7) and the Arizona Cardinals at No. 22 (73.6).

Last on the list? The Jacksonville Jaguars at No. 32 with the lowest overall score of 64.5.

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