San Francisco 49ers: Ranking Each Position in 2016 by Strength
By Peter Panacy
Best Player: Kicker Phil Dawson
Worst Player: Punter Bradley Pinion
X-Factor: Returner Bruce Ellington
There may not be a lot of drama on NFL special teams, but the door is open for some competition at two specific positions within this overlooked unit: kicker and returner.
Veteran kicker Phil Dawson, at 41 years old, was re-signed during the offseason to a one-year deal. He converted 24 of 27 field goals a season ago and remains one of the Niners’ primary offensive weapons.
But the 49ers also added undrafted free agent John Lunsford out of Liberty following the draft, so it’s possible San Francisco looks to get younger and cheaper here.
It’s hard to rank punter Bradley Pinion as this unit’s worst player — he actually averaged a better net-yards-per-punt mark than former 49ers punter Andy Lee’s rookie year — but Pinion was fairly inconsistent a year ago. So he gets the unfortunate mark here.
Wide receiver Bruce Ellington should assume kick- and punt-return duties this season, unless someone takes it away from him.
Retired running back Jarryd Hayne is no longer in the picture so, unless fellow wideout DeAndrew White earns the nod, this job will be Ellington’s alone.