49ers position group rankings: Pre-season edition

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The 49ers’ roster in 2021 might be better than the team that went to the Super Bowl two years ago.

One of the intriguing things about San Francisco this year is that their depth comes with some question marks, but there’s enough upside that the path to having one of the top rosters in the league is at least visible.

We’ll be keeping track all season of their depth chart and how each position is shaping up over the 18-week slate by ranking the position groups.

This is what our pre-season ranking looks like going into the season opener against the Lions:

Defensive line

Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

This is a deep group with terrific top-end talent as well. Nick Bosa could be a Defensive Player of the Year candidate, and a healthy Dee Ford in 2019 elevated the 49ers' pass rush to an elite level. San Francisco may have the best pass rush in the NFL if Arik Armstead bounces back in 2021 and Samson Ebukam fits in his new role. With a deep interior led by DJ Jones and Javon Kinlaw, this is the best portion of the 49ers' roster.

Running back

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Raheem Mostert spearheads a strong running back room that was bolstered this offseason by third-round pick Trey Sermon and sixth-round pick Elijah Mitchell. With second-year undrafted free agent JaMycal Hasty shining in the preseason and fullback Kyle Juszczyk leading the way, the 49ers have an excellent backfield that could be among the NFL's leaders in rushing.

Offensive line

(AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

The addition of Alex Mack at center should help solidify the interior of the 49ers' offensive line. Right guard is still at least a small question mark with Daniel Brunskill slated to start at that spot. However, Trent Williams, Laken Tomlinson and Mike McGlinchey could form the best run-blocking group in the NFL. Rookie Jaylon Moore and Jake Brendel offer some quality depth they lacked last season.

Linebacker

(AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)

There's a case to be made that linebacker should go above the offensive line. Fred Warner is a bona fide star at the position, and Dre Greenlaw is a high-end starter at Will linebacker. Azeez Al-Shaair is good as the Sam, but the depth is the larger concern. Demetrius Flannigan-Fowles and Marcell Harris both bring good athleticism in the second level, but the converted safeties are both relatively inexperienced.

Wide receiver

(AP Photo/Tony Avelar)

This might be the position group with the best chance to jump up. Brandon Aiyuk and Deebo Samuel are a formidable duo. up top, but the depth is a significant concern. If Trent Sherfield carries over his strong preseason, and Mohamed Sanu and Jauan Jennings can sprinkle in contributions it'll erase the depth concerns and make this a much better group overall.

Tight end

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George Kittle is the best all-around tight end in the NFL, but Ross Dwelley and Charlie Woerner don't offer enough as receivers yet to move TE up the list. If one of them emerges as a more regular receiving threat on top of their duties as blockers it'll help the 49ers offense a ton and slide this group up a couple rungs.

Quarterback

(AP Photo/D. Ross Cameron)

This is another unit that should take a big jump as the season moves forward. Jimmy Garoppolo has to be better in 2021 than he was in 2020 though, and rookie Trey Lance has to prove he can be effective in regular season games. If they do that, the QB room could wind up becoming a real strength for the 49ers.

Safety

(AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)

Jimmie Ward and Jaquiski Tartt form a good duo in the back end of the 49ers' secondary, and rookie Talanoa Hufanga along with veteran Tavon Wilson both acquitted themselves well in their reps with the starters during training camp. Injury is a concern for both Ward and Tartt and how Hufanga or Wilson respond in a regular-season game is yet to be determined.

Cornerback

(AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

The depth concern for the 49ers' CB group is already rearing its head with starter Emmanuel Moseley on track to miss the opener in Detroit. Jason Verrett still has injury questions despite a healthy 2020 campaign, and the options behind those to include rookies Deommodore Lenoir and Ambry Thomas, 33-year-old Josh Norman who's been with the team for a week, and practice squad veteran Dontae Johnson who's been cut twice by the 49ers since the end of August. K'Waun Williams is a good nickel corner, but the top option behind him is Lenoir, who mostly played on the outside in camp.

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