Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports


ESPN ranks ‘decent’ 49ers roster last in NFC West, identifies obstacle to overcome

Sep 5, 2021 at 9:35 AM--


ESPN's latest NFL power ranking is causing a bit of a stir among fans. Not only does writer Mike Clay have the San Francisco 49ers ranked No. 15 in the league, but he also has them as the last-listed representative of the NFC West.

While the 49ers and Los Angeles Rams are oddsmakers' favorites to win the division, the Seattle Seahawks surprisingly come in at No. 6, the highest-ranking among the four NFC West teams. The Los Angeles Rams can be found six spots later at No. 12. Even the Arizona Cardinals are ranked higher than San Francisco. One spot higher, in fact, at No. 14.

So why the low ranking from Clay? He blames the tough division. All four NFC West teams sit in Clay's top 15, but the decision to list the Niners last created chatter on social media. Yes, San Francisco has suffered losing seasons in five of the last six years. Still, the roster resembles the 2019 Super Bowl contender more closely than some of head coach Kyle Shanahan's earlier squads or last season's injury-depleted one.

Clay even admits that the healthier 49ers are due for a bounceback.

"The Niners have a terrific offensive line and a good core of offensive targets led by George Kittle, Brandon Aiyuk and Deebo Samuel, but it is yet to be seen how much they get out of the unsettled Jimmy Garoppolo/Trey Lance quarterback situation," wrote Clay.

The team's strength might be its defense and deep defensive line, which will see the return of pass rushers Nick Bosa and Dee Ford. Both missed most of last season due to injuries. There are secondary concerns, though, and the team lost its defensive coordinator from the past four years.

"The defense has more voids than in years past and coordinator Robert Saleh is gone, but star power remains in the form of Nick Bosa, Arik Armstead, Fred Warner, Jason Verrett and Jimmie Ward," added Clay. "This is a decent roster that will need to overcome a tough division in order to find its way back to the playoffs."

H/t to Chris Wilson for the find.





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