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Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Where the 49ers rank among most complete teams in the NFL

May 22, 2023 at 9:45 AM--

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The San Francisco 49ers have a plethora of talent. The roster is among the best in the league. You ask the players inside the locker room, and they'll tell you without a doubt that they are the best.

"We have a talented football team," wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk said in February. "We have, hands down, the best football team in the league. Hands down. Hands down. I'm not even about to argue with anybody who thinks they should argue that."

Free agency and the draft have come and gone since that comment. Still, another 49ers receiver agrees wholeheartedly with Aiyuk.

"From (Nick) Bosa, Arik (Armstead) to Fred (Warner), we got youngins growing, Deo Lenoir," wide receiver Deebo Samuel said earlier this month. "Then you go to the offensive end, you got Aiyuk, (George) Kittle, Trent (Williams), we got healthy quarterbacks, Christian (McCaffrey), me. From top to bottom, I feel like we the best team in the league."

So where do the 49ers rank among the 10 most complete teams in the NFL? Eric Edholm of NFL Media had only two teams ahead of San Francisco—the Philadelphia Eagles and the Kansas City Chiefs.

Don't tell that to Samuel, who believes the NFC Championship Game would have had a different outcome if both 49ers quarterbacks hadn't suffered injuries.

"I ain't going to keep going on about what could've happened and what would've happened, but yeah, it would've definitely been a different outcome," Samuel said. "... We lost because we played with 10 people (on offense)."

In addition to the players that Samuel rattled off, the 49ers added defensive lineman Javon Hargrave via free agency, making an already impressive unit even scarier.

"The Niners were gashed by the run a few times, notably by the Eagles in the NFC title game," wrote Edholm. "But if big-ticket free-agent signing Javon Hargrave lives up to his billing, Arik Armstead bounces back from a tough season, and someone else steps up (Javon Kinlaw?), this should be a good defensive interior."

That doesn't mean things are perfect. One big reason the 49ers don't rank higher than No. 3 on Edholm's list is the uncertain quarterback situation. Purdy, suffering a tear of the ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) in his right elbow in that NFC Championship Game, is expected to miss most or all of the offseason.

"If Purdy can come back and prove that his late-season run was no fluke, the 49ers will be in great shape," wrote Edholm.

The injury leaves former No. 3 overall picks Trey Lance and Sam Darnold splitting offseason reps and possibly starting Week 1 if Purdy isn't ready to go.

"Trey Lance's trajectory has changed wildly in the past nine months or so," wrote Edholm, 'but he'll still have a chance to rewrite his path and start if Purdy can't go Week 1. There's also Sam Darnold, who has 55 NFL starts, which is pretty good insurance."

Edholm notes other concerns, like the offensive line depth. While the 49ers seem confident that Colton McKivitz can replace Mike McGlinchey at right tackle, "experts" are less certain. If the team can remain healthy, though, the 49ers should find themselves in the playoffs again.

"Injuries always seem to sink their teeth into this team, but San Francisco's run/pass versatility with Christian McCaffrey, Deebo Samuel, George Kittle, Kyle Juszczyk, and others make this offense very tough to game plan against," added Edholm.


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