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Where ESPN ranks the 49ers in NFL future power ranking

Jul 19, 2021 at 6:37 AM

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ESPN recently asked its panel of "experts" — Jeremy Fowler, Louis Riddick, Seth Walder, and Field Yates — to rate each NFL team's quarterback situation, remaining (non-QB) roster, drafting ability, front office, and coaching. Using those ratings, it then ranked all 32 NFL teams on how well they are positioned for the future, creating a power ranking based on projection over the next three seasons.

The Kansas City Chiefs came in at No. 1 with an overall score of 88.5. The Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers came in at No. 2 with a score of 88.1.

The San Francisco 49ers were the highest-ranked team in the NFC West, coming in at No. 6 overall with a score of 82.8. It was the second-highest ranking of an NFC team.

The 49ers' individual category with the highest grade, contributing to the overall score, was coaching at 90.5. It's a testament to how highly Kyle Shanahan and his staff are regarded. That was the fourth-highest grade in the NFL for that category. Only the New England Patriots, Chiefs, and New Orleans Saints ranked higher for coaching.

Yates credits the 49ers' strong roster and ability to plan for the future — evident by the drafting of quarterback Trey Lance at No. 3 overall — as the reason for the high placement within the ranking.

"The 49ers will always be a handful on offense, but the healthy return of Nick Bosa this year sets him up as one of the league's defensive difference-makers again going forward," wrote Yates.

Of course, the development and utilization of Lance are listed as the team's biggest worry. His future will define head coach Kyle Shanahan's legacy. After all, San Francisco could have gone in several other directions in recent years, even potentially signing future Hall of Fame quarterback Tom Brady last offseason. The team also showed a desire this offseason to upgrade from Jimmy Garoppolo.

"It is no longer a secret that Shanahan coveted many of the veteran quarterbacks who either changed teams (Matthew Stafford) or want to change teams (Aaron Rodgers)," wrote Riddick, "so there is an intense amount of pressure to make sure that the rookie QB provides the return on investment in line with what they gave up to draft him."

Based on this year's draft class, Fowler believes Shanahan could evolve his offense in the coming years. And that belief isn't just because of Lance.

"Shanahan's scheme will remain the same, but draft moves suggest new wrinkles are on the way," wrote Fowler. "They targeted more size and power with second-round guard Aaron Banks, and more dual-threat ability with Lance. And new running back Trey Sermon is more of an all-around playmaker than usual 49ers speedsters. It's all about matchups, and Shanahan has more options at his disposal."

As for the rest of the NFC West, the Los Angeles Rams came in at No. 7, the Seattle Seahawks at No. 10, and the Arizona Cardinals at No. 22. Which team had the worst projected future? That would be the Houston Texans at No. 32.

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