Breaking: George Kittle seemingly shoots down Sports Illustrated report that a contract extension is imminent

Out of Their Depth

Mar 12, 2013 at 5:19 PM1


With the 49ers embarking on free agency, and then the draft, we enter that hope-filled season when NFL teams can add talent. Many national commentators proclaim the 49ers "loaded," lacking only a few starters. Well, starters, maybe yes, but teams also need depth, and I agree more closely with local scribes, such as 49erswebzone writers Jason Giese on the defensive line and Al Sacco on the running backs, when assessing those Niners' needs. With scads of draft picks this year, either for trade or draft, the 49ers must look not only for starters, but also for depth. Preparatory to the next few weeks, let's look at three different kinds of depth.

Stop-gaps. Teams hope these players can step in if a regular sustains an injury, or simply needs to sit for a spell to mull missed assignments. Often these players contribute very little, even on special teams. Sometimes they sub in on special packages, such as goal line, or short-yardage situations. No one expects these subs to develop into long-term impact players, and folks are generally happy if they don't mess up too badly. Usually, veterans on their way out fill these slots. An example from last season: Leonard Davis. Teams would prefer to have more of the other kinds of depth, but, given the injury hazards, most organizations, realistically, need to settle for a few stop-gaps. Occasionally, like Deion Sanders for the 1994 Niners, these players exceed stop-gap status and become one-year wonders.

Contributors. Teams need as many of these guys as they can get. Where do they contribute? As special-teamers, backups, and part-time starters. Ideally, one would like these players to excel not only on special teams, but to provide quality playing time when starters need rest. Indeed, sometimes they blur the distinction between backup and starters, for instance Delanie Walker (best wishes in Tennessee, versatile one) or Chris Culliver. As all 49er fans know, the current special teams need boosting. While stop-gaps often sign as free agents or arrive via trade, teams traditionally add these contributors during the middle and late rounds of the draft, or even as undrafted free-agent signings.

Replenishers. Every team hopes to stockpile as many of these players as possible. Every fan invests dreams of future success in these guys, even if they don't always pan out. These players, however they arrive, usually in the early-to-mid rounds, may not start right away, but they catch the eyes of coaches and fans alike, and often, at a young age, work and/or dazzle themselves into more playing time, and, eventually, become starters. These players provide true quality depth, not only in and of themselves, but because they permit teams to let more expensive veterans leave in free agency. NaVorro Bowman provides a penultimate example: drafted in the third round in 2010, he flashed so much ability that the 49ers let Takeo Spikes walk the following season, and installed Bowman as starting inside linebacker. Mr. Bowman's subsequent play testifies to the importance of stocking the depth charts with potential young starters.

True depth does not just mean names on a roster, but quality players capable of contributing now, and starting later. The 49ers 2012 draft has so far not provided much in the way of replenishers, although some of last year's rookies, particularly the injured, may yet pan out. But the 2013 49ers cannot afford two consecutive drafts bereft of replenishers, and short, too, of genuine contributors. For that reason, the upcoming draft looms as especially important, both in terms of salary-cap implications, and as a source of replacement talent.
The views within this article are those of the writer and, while just as important, are not necessarily those of the site as a whole.


1 Comment

  • 49er Britt
    Accurate for the most part. Some tough free agent loses, but deals we could not afford to meet. Good for those players. We have a strrong personnel department and plenty of picks. We will be okay! Not sure we should lump Deion in your definition of contributor. He was an important piece to that Super Bowl run. We should of had him longer if not for the EA fiasco.
    Mar 12, 2013 at 5:31 PM
    0
    Response: Agree on Mr. Sanders. He does not fit handily into any category.

Facebook Comments



More San Francisco 49ers News



Nick Bosa, Fred Warner, and Deebo Samuel contribute to ESPN ranking 49ers No. 5 by their under-25 talent

By David Bonilla
Aug 10, 2020

Scott Spratt of Football Outsiders, in a feature for ESPN, ranks four NFL teams ahead of the San Francisco 49ers when it comes to their under-25-year-old talent heading into the 2020 season. They are the Baltimore Ravens, New York Giants, Arizona Cardinals, and Buffalo Bills. The blue-chip players who contributed to the 49ers' ranking are defensive end Nick Bosa, linebacker Fred Warner, and wide receiver Deebo Samuel. Bosa contributed to the 49ers defense's much-improved pass rush, finishing last season with 62 quarterback hurries, according to Football Outsiders. That number will differ depending on the source you

Read the Full Article


49ers' Daniel Brunskill, Jalen Hurd listed among top 25 prospects who could break out in 2020

By David Bonilla
Jul 30, 2020

Football Outsiders has once again taken a look at the best young players in the league who don't have a lot of playing time. The feature for ESPN casts aside first-round picks and other top prospects, and instead focuses on those who didn't receive a lot of fanfare. "This is a list of players who have a strong chance to make an impact in the NFL despite their lack of draft stock and the fact they weren't immediate NFL starters," wrote Rivers McCown. The list is a top 25 ranking, and two players represent the San Francisco 49ers. The first — 26-year-old offensive lineman Daniel Brunskill — comes in at No. 10. The

Read the Full Article


Roster moves: D.J. Reed's season ends, Richie James taken off reserve/COVID-19 list, two activated, no 49ers opt out of season so far

By David Bonilla
Aug 3, 2020

San Francisco 49ers general manager John Lynch announced a few roster moves before a Monday afternoon press conference conducted via Zoom. One was the decision to place safety D.J. Reed on the reserve/non-football injury list, effectively ending his season. The versatile defensive back suffered a torn pectoral muscle in June. "That's a tough one for us," Lynch told reporters. "The earliest we might have had D.J. back was early November. It's a four-to-six-month injury, so that's been an active conversation Kyle and myself and the medical folks have been having. Ultimately, too difficult to keep a roster spot for something that may go into December. So we made that

Read the Full Article

Featured

More Featured Stories

More by D.C. Owens

All Articles by D.C. Owens

More Articles

All Articles
Share 49erswebzone