San Francisco 49ers: Ranking Each Position in 2016 by Strength
By Peter Panacy
Best Player: Nose Tackle Ian Williams
Worst Player: Glenn Dorsey
X-Factor: DeForest Buckner
Yes, nose tackle Ian Williams is the best commodity the 49ers have along their defensive line. At least for now.
Williams finished 2015 with a plus-24.4 overall grade, per PFF — highest among all Niner defenders and nearly twice as high as fellow defensive lineman Arik Armstead (plus-15.1).
But Williams’ ankle injury is concerning, and he may not be ready for Week 1 of the regular season. Fortunately, the 49ers have some depth and additional options here. While defensive tackle Glenn Dorsey (knee) will likely be shelved to start the season, San Francisco can count upon fellow D-lineman Quinton Dial to possibly assume the nose position should Williams and/or Dorsey be unavailable.
Dial, who also finished 2015 with a positive PFF grade, will likely start anyway. And he’ll be joined by Armstead.
General manager Trent Baalke has spent each of the 49ers’ first two draft picks over the last two years on big-bodied defensive lineman — Armstead and now former Oregon DE DeForest Buckner.
Buckner may not start right away, but the Niners’ seventh-overall pick from the 2016 NFL Draft will get his chances his rookie season. And he may quickly wind up being another half of a pocket-wrecking tandem when combined with Armstead.
San Francisco has amicable depth here — and one cannot overlook the late-round addition of former Appalachian State D-lineman Ronald Blair either.
Barring a slew of injuries, this unit looks to be one of the stronger positions within the 49ers roster.
Next: Offensive Line