It’s not a big shocker, but the 49ers are currently being viewed as one of the top-contending teams in the NFC heading into the 2023 NFL Draft.
The San Francisco 49ers suffered some pretty significant roster losses during free agency, including quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo departing to the Las Vegas Raiders.
Interestingly enough, though, Jimmy G’s season-ending foot injury last year didn’t derail head coach Kyle Shanahan’s squad, as then-rookie signal-caller Brock Purdy took over and helped get the Niners all the way to the NFC Championship game before he himself suffered a torn UCL against the Philadelphia Eagles.
Purdy, who underwent offseason surgery to repair the injury last month, might not be ready for the start of the regular season.
While that has created some uncertainty under center for Shanahan and Co., namely the debate about who starts between Trey Lance and Sam Darnold, a still-stacked roster means that analysts aren’t completely changing their minds about where San Francisco should land in the NFC pecking order just weeks before the 2023 NFL Draft kicks off.
Turns out, the 49ers are ranked pretty high.
NFL.com puts 49ers into top tier of NFC teams ahead of NFL Draft
NFL power rankings are one thing, and it’s debatable if the Niners are a top-five team in those, given their quarterback uncertainty.
However, when it comes to tiering teams, it’s not much of a debate at all. At least not according to NFL.com’s Eric Edholm, who tiered each team within the NFC based on four categories:
- The top dogs
- Playoffs should be the goal
- Wait and see
- A lot of work to do
Where did San Francisco rank? In the best category, of course. Edholm described:
"There is, admittedly, a strange situation happening at QB, with Brock Purdy set to start based on his rookie heroics and Trey Lance left to wait for his chance. It’s nice to have options, and Sam Darnold also has hopped the magic bus, as if things weren’t strange and crowded enough already. But based on how last year went, with Purdy and Lance both still working back to full health, all three had better be ready.Even still, this is a defense — despite the loss of coordinator DeMeco Ryans — that should keep the Niners in almost every game by itself. Adding DT Javon Hargrave offsets some of the personnel losses on that side of the ball. And when you factor in a quality group of skill-position talent here, it’s easy to see why the 49ers belong in this category, even with some real questions."
Joining the 49ers in the top-tier category are the Eagles, understandably, along with the Dallas Cowboys.
Edholm’s analysis of the rest of the NFC West put the Seattle Seahawks into the playoff-goal category, while the Los Angeles Rams and Arizona Cardinals fell into the wait-and-see and lots-of-work groups, respectively.
Perhaps a strong NFL Draft class for the Niners in which they capitalize on 11 mid- and late-round picks will help push them into the “best of the best” group just a shade above the top dogs within the NFC.