The San Francisco 49ers came within yards of winning Super Bowl XLVII against the Ravens and are undoubtedly chomping at the bit to get back to work on improving the team enough to get back to the Super Bowl and win the franchise’s sixth title. Despite the team’s success the past two seasons, there are still a few positions that need to be addressed this off-season through the draft and/or free agency/trades.
Position: Defensive Line
The 49ers have a ferocious front seven, anchored by the three big down lineman Justin Smith, Isaac Sopoaga, and Ray McDonald. But behind them, the depth is simply not there. The lack of a quality backup forces the trio to play most of the games with minimal rest on long drives. This lack of rest is especially concerning when it comes to Smith and Sopoaga, both of whom are in their 30’s and don’t quite have the motor and stamina that they once had. The 49ers pass rush suffers when these guys get tired out and the lack of viable options to provide a breather costs the 49ers at times. They’ll need to address that depth and target a defensive lineman or two in the draft and/or through free agency.
Potential Players: Ziggy Ansah, Alex Okafor, Dwight Freeney, Richard Seymour
Position: Defensive Back
Reality set in this season: Carlos Rogers is NOT a number one/shutdown corner. Rogers definitely overachieved in 2011-2012, and was paid for his outstanding play. However, his severe regression cost the 49ers. Rogers was consistently getting beat by opposing receivers of all types, a trend that compromises his future with the team. Other young corners Chris Culliver and Tarell Brown played well, but are not quite ready to take on the responsibilities of being a number one defensive back. This lack of a true shutdown corner cost the 49ers on more than one occasion, including the Super Bowl. By getting that go-to-corner, the 49ers will be able to blitz with a little more frequency, getting pressure on quarterbacks that comes in inconsistent spurts. A lockdown corner could be just what the 49ers need to win it all.
Potential Players: Darelle Revis, Charles Woodson, Brent Grimes, Sean Smith
Position: Wide Receiver
Michael Crabtree emerged as a top target for the 49ers this season, but the team lacked a complimentary number two receiver. Randy Moss wasn’t the answer and is not likely to return next season. The status of Mario Manningham and Kyle Williams is uncertain following their season-ending injuries late in the season. And 2012 first-round pick AJ Jenkins doesn’t look close to being a solid contributor yet. With that said, the lack of a number two cost the 49ers in the Super Bowl. The Ravens were able to focus on Crabtree and tight end Vernon Davis, putting the 49ers in a tough spot. If the offense is going to make it to the next level of dynamic ability, a solid second receiver that has the ability to stretch the field is just what they need.
Potential Players: Greg Jennings, Dwayne Bowe, Percy Harvin, Cordarrelle Patterson
There are plenty of opportunities out there for the 49ers to upgrade or add depth. And with such a young core/foundation, the 49ers should definitely be one of the favorites to win it all in 2013-2014.