Last season, the 49ers came within one game of making the Super Bowl, riding a phenomenally deep and talented roster to a 13-4 record and an NFC Championship Game. Even as they cycled through quarterbacks, going from Trey Lance to Jimmy Garoppalo to Brock Purdy, the 49ers stayed dominant; their roster was so good and their coaching staff was so smart that they created a quarterback agnostic environment, one in which a prolific offense was practically predestined. While they lost some key pieces during the offseason (starting right tackle Mike McGlinchey left for the Denver Broncos; defensive coordinator Demeco Ryans is now the Texans’ head coach), the 49ers enter the 2023 season with the same star-studded roster that carried them in 2022. As such, here’s a look at the 49ers’ depth chart after the 2023 NFL Draft.
Quarterback: Brock Purdy
If Purdy can recover in time from offseason elbow surgery, he’s the presumptive starter. Pressed into the starting job last year due to injuries, Purdy threw for 1,374 yards, 13 touchdowns and four interceptions in five starts; he was even better in the playoffs, authoring a 332 yard, four total touchdown masterpiece against the Seattle Seahawks in the Wildcard Round.
Behind Purdy, Trey Lance and Sam Darnold are a pair of former #3 overall picks who haven’t lived up to their lofty draft status. Lance, who started last year as the starter, is currently rehabbing a torn ACL while Darnold flamed out with the Jets and Panthers. Still, both are hugely gifted and relatively young, offering Kyle Shannahan solid options in case Purdy isn’t ready to start the year.
Running Back: Christian McCaffrey, Elijah Mitchell
The 49ers traded for superstar running back Christian McCaffrey at last year’s trade deadline and the former Carolina Panther immediately elevated the entire roster. In 10 starts with the 49ers, McCaffrey was as explosive and versatile as ever, racking up 746 yards on the ground and 464 receiving yards while scoring 10 total touchdowns. This offseason, he restructured his contract to clear more cap space, signaling that he intends to stay with the 49ers for the foreseeable future. Outside of McCaffrey, Elijah Mitchell is an excellent, speedy back in his own right.
Wide Receiver: Deebo Samuel, Brandon Aiyuk, Jauan Jennings,
Deebo Samuel is the most unique receiver in the league, an all-purpose threat who can line up inside or outside but also double as an elite running back. With Samuel hurt for chunks of last season, Aiyuk had a breakout season as the de facto #1 receiver on the 49ers’ roster, hauling in 78 catches for 1015 yards and eight touchdowns. As the 49ers’ third receiver, Jauan Jennings is a scrappy player who is a steady pass catcher and, as a nice bonus, is an elite blocker for a receiver.
Fullback: Kyle Juszczyk
Juszczyk is the best fullback in the league. In an era that’s more or less completely devalued the position, he’s proof that a great fullback can still help an offense in novel and important ways.
Tight End: George Kittle
A ferocious blocker, prolific pass catcher and charmingly goofy guy, Kittle is the closest thing the modern NFL has to Gronk. Last year, Kittle caught 60 passes for 765 yards and 11 touchdowns, reaffirming his status as a superstar tight end.
Left Tackle: Trent Williams
The highest paid left tackle in NFL history, the 35 year-old Trent Williams is still one of the best as well.
Left Guard: Aaron Banks
A second round pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, Banks has been a perfectly mediocre starting tackle. According to Pro Football Focus, Banks was ranked 48th amongst the 77 guards in the NFL.
Center: Jake Brendel
After a solid season as the 49ers starting center (20th best out of 36 centers, per PFF), Brendel was rewarded with a four year contract worth up to $20 million.
Right Guard: Spencer Burford
A fourth round pick the 2022 NFL Draft, Burford had a rocky rookie season. Thrust into the starting job at right guard, Burford was one of the 10 worst guards according to PFF, ranking just 67th out of 77 guards.
Right Tackle: Colton McKivitz
With long-time right tackle Mike McGlinchey off to Denver, the 26 year-old McKivitz enters 2023 atop the 49ers depth chart. Although McKivitz has only sparingly played in his three year career so far, the 49ers believed in him enough to sign him to a two year contract extension this offseason.
Left Defensive End: Nick Bosa
The reigning Defensive Player of the Year, Bosa notched a league-leading 18.5 sacks last year. Entering the fifth and final year of his rookie contract, the 26 year-old Bosa is in talks to sign a record-breaking contract extension with the 49ers, which will surely make him the highest paid defensive player of all time.
Defensive Tackle: Javon Hargrave, Arik Armstead
In one of the biggest and most surprising moves of the offseason, the 49ers added former Eagles star Javon Hargrave to their roster, signing Hargrave to a 4 year, $84 million contract in free agency this offseason. Coming off a career-best year (60 tackles, 11 sacks), Hargrave will form the NFL’s most fearsome defensive line alongside Bosa and fellow defensive tackle Arik Armstead, a fellow star in his own right who should be ready to go after missing nearly all of last year with a foot injury.
Right Defensive End: Drake Jackson
A second round pick out of USC in the 2022 NFL Draft, Jackson struggled to make a big impact in his rookie year. Still, he showed flashes of potential as a pass rusher with three sacks and seven pressures despite playing just 33 percent of snaps last season.
Weakside Linebacker: Dre Greenlaw
A three-year starter, Greenlaw has developed into an excellent, if unheralded linebacker. Known for his abilities in pass coverage and dependable tackling, Greenlaw had 127 tackles last year, the second most on the team. Accordingly, the 49ers inked him to a two-year contract extension last September worth up to $19 million, which has quickly become a bargain.
Middle Linebacker: Fred Warner
An absolute superstar, Warner is undeniably the best off-ball linebacker in football. He tackles like a machine, runs in coverage like a safety, and reads plays like a coach. Signed to a five year, $95 million contract that runs through 2026, the 26 year-old stud is a key part of the 49ers depth chart for both the present and future.
Strongside Linebacker: Oren Burks
Coming off a nice season as a rotational linebacker in Green Bay (38 tackles in 15 percent of the Packers’ snaps), Burks signed a two year, $5 million deal with the 49ers in free agency. As of right now, he’s the presumptive starter on the 49ers depth chart, but rookie Dee Banks, a sixth-round pick from TCU in this year’s NFL Draft, could challenge him in training camp.
Cornerback: Charvarius Ward, Deommodore Lenoir
In his first year on the 49ers’ roster, Ward immediately established himself as an indispensable part of their defense. Matched up against some of the best receivers in football, Ward allowed just 6.4 yards per target and didn’t miss a tackle the entire season. Opposite Ward, Lenoir had a mini-breakout in his own right, starting 13 of 17 games in his second year in the league.
Strong Safety: Talanoa Hufanga
With his long hair and instinctive playmaking, Hufanga looked a lot like Troy Polamalu in his first year as a starter. Emerging from relative obscurity, Hufanga quickly became one of the best and most exciting safeties in the league, making the All-Pro first team thanks to his 97 tackles and four interceptions.
Free Safety: Tashaun Gipson
While Hufanga made waves for his highlight plays and distinctive hair, Gipson was a reliable presence in the defensive backfield, shoring up the back end of the 49ers’ pass coverage. A known ball-hawk, Gipson led the team with five interceptions and 141 interception return yards.
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