Originally written on The Sports Headquarters  |  Last updated 11/14/14

The San Francisco 49ers have undergone a defensive transformation worthy of the dynasty teams of the 80′s.  New Coach Jim Harbaugh has given everyone a belief in themselves and he is like Rex Ryan in the way he defends his team.  His famous saying is “Who has it better than us???”, “NOBODY.”  His team was not expected to play as well as they did last year but they surprised the entire NFL.  A ton of naysayers will proclaim that that the Niners had the 4th easiest schedule in the league last year but hey, they had to beat the “Big Boys” in the playoffs and came within a couple of special team gaffes from advancing to the biggest championship in sports, the Super Bowl.  The Offense has seen some upgrades this year but make no mistake, the team is built from the Defense out.  Charged with the task of keeping Quarterback Alex Smith off the PUP list is LT Joe Staley, LG Mike Iupati, C Jonathan Goodwin, RG Alex Boone and RT Anthony Davis.

Left Tackle Joe Staley was a 1st round draft choice of the Niners back in 2007.  He is a strong run blocker who has been fighting the injury bug until last year when he came of age and made a Pro Bowl.  He is very quick out of the stance and exhibits a nasty streak.  If you watch game tape, you will see that he rises upon the snap as fast as anyone in the NFL which gives him an instant leverage advantage on defensive players.


Left Guard Mike Iupati was a 1st round selection in 2010 by the 49ers.  He is one of the most mild mannered players off the field but when he puts on the pads, a true demon comes out.  He was very highly touted coming out of college but has not progressed to the level expected of a first round pick, YET.  An interesting note about Mike is that he is currently larger than the Left Tackle which is extremely rare in today’s game.


Center Jonathan Goodwin was a 5th round selection of the N.Y Jets in 2002.  He played in the Big Apple until 2005 when he was picked up as a free agent by the New Orleans Saints.  In 2009 he won the Super Bowl with the Saints so when he arrived in San Francisco via Free Agency in 2011, he instantly added a veteran presence and a winning mentality.  He gave up 6 sacks in 2011 as opposed to 1.5 in 2010 but he should get back to 2010 form.


Right Guard Alex Boone was selected by the 49ers as an undrafted Free Agent in 2009.  He is one of the leagues tallest Guards at 6’8.  Since they brought Boone into the fold he has been a virtual steal.  He has progressed from a rather ugly off the field alcohol related incident in college to a mature team guy today.  He has played in 16 games so far in his career and has not allowed a sack to date.


Right Tackle Anthony Davis was a 1st round selection of San Francisco’s in 2010.  He has had problems with consistency since becoming the everyday RT.  He is a fiery competitor who needs to allow his athleticism to be shown in every game.  He has been victimized for 21 sacks in the last two years and has had 17 penalties credited to him in that span also.  The Niners are weak at RT depth as they only have unproven Kenny Wiggins listed on the current Depth Chart.


Now to analyze the numbers…..


The 49ers ranked 21st in Total Run Blocking in 2011 allowing Frank Gore, Kendall Hunter and fullback Anthony Dixon to run for 4.17 yards per carry which was below the NFL average of 4.31 yards per carry.  They were stopped at/or behind the line of scrimmage on 20% of their rushing attempts which was again below the NFL average of 19%.  They achieved first downs on 3rd/4th down runs on only 51% of their attempts which was 4th worst in the NFL and was way worse than the 62% NFL average.  The Niners are a run oriented team and ran the ball 427 times in 2011.  They had their least success running behind the Center/Guards combo as they only squeezed out 3.57 yards per carry.  They had considerably more success running off the hulking RT Anthony Davis as they galloped for 4.59 yards per carry which was 4th best in the NFL.  From a Fantasy perspective, the only absolute must draft is still Frank Gore who is 29 but still very effective.  He rushed for 1211 yards on 282 carries which equates to a 4.29 yards per carry average.  He also added 8 TD’s but don’t expect that to continue in 2012 with the addition of Brandon Jacobs who may vulture some Goal line touches.  Gore is still a borderline RB1 but is probably more suited to be an RB2.  Backups Kendall Hunter, Jacobs and recent Draftee LaMichael James will take some of the load away from Gore but who is the most reliable guy in the backfield…Gore.  James is an intriguing player if you are in Dynasty leagues or long term keeper leagues.  He has the making of an absolute star so I would draft him late and stash him for future use.


San Francisco ranked 25th in Pass Protection in 2011 allowing Alex Smith to be sacked on 8.4% of his dropbacks which is well above the NFL average of 6.7%.  Smith has not had a stable of receivers who can be counted on to bail him out of tough situations until now.  From a Fantasy perspective, Smith should not be a starter in any 1 Qb leagues.  However, if you have 2 QB leagues he may be remotely valuable.  Tight End Vernon Davis is the rock on the passing side of the ball as he is a definite Tight End 1 in any format and should be selected with pride early in your drafts, like perhaps as early as round 5 or 6.  For Wide Receivers, the Niners have Michael Crabtree who hasn’t lived up to potential yet although he may approach the 1000 yard plateau in 2012.  They also have the crafty old vet Randy Moss who may have finally found his spot after a few disgruntled years.  My problem with Moss is that he can act like a diva and take plays off.  Mario Manningham was brought in at the beginning of 2012 to add a Super Bowl Championship attitude to the receiving crew, but he is a decent clutch guy and nothing else.  A.J Jenkins has been a source of perplexity in the offseason as he has all the tools but can’ master Route Running as quickly as coaches would like.  Expect the Offense to again struggle to reach the end zone time after time in 2012, so draft Kicker David Akers to bolster your roster.  Just don’t draft him before you make your bench stronger.  He will be counted on to kick field goal after field goal for San Fran.


Thanks to www.footballoutsiders.com for the statistics.


Next team is the Seattle Seahawks



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