The most notable NFL offseason events are now behind us, and teams across the league have taken every opportunity during the 2023 NFL Scouting Combine, free agency, 2023 NFL Draft and the post-draft signing frenzy to stack their rosters for training camp and beyond.
The San Francisco 49ers came out of free agency as a top five team and have further cemented themselves near the top of the NFL power rankings following the draft, the signing of undrafted free agents and the regular season schedule release according to major national outlets. It's of course too early to know exactly how newly signed prospects and free agent additions will pan out until games begin in the fall, but on paper, the projections are positive for the red and gold.
The 49ers, who were originally slated to have 11 late-round picks, made a pair of decisive moves to kick off the draft, trading up to the 87th-overall pick for safety Ji'Ayir Brown and selecting kicker Jake Moody with the 99th-overall pick. Of the team's nine total draft picks, five were dedicated to fortifying the league's reigning No. 1 overall defense in the upcoming season.
San Francisco's success in the draft, coupled with the signing of one of the top available free agents in defensive lineman Javon Hargrave and the offseason coaching changes were all taken into consideration in these latest set of NFL power rankings.
Let's take a look at where national outlets ranked the 49ers heading into training camp and the 2023 season:
NFL Writers Dalton Wasserman and Jim Wyman
Biggest strength in 2023: Playmakers
"It's a shame the 49ers' quarterback room was ravaged by injuries because they may have been the most well-rounded team in 2022. Offensively, Deebo Samuel, Christian McCaffrey, George Kittle and Brandon Aiyuk thrived no matter who was under center. 49ers pass catchers led the league in missed tackles forced and ranked fifth in the regular season in yards after catch despite seeing the seventh-fewest targets. Defensively, Fred Warner, Charvarius Ward and Talanoa Hufanga return for the highest-graded coverage unit in the NFL, one that also led the league in interceptions."
Rookie to watch: S Ji'Ayir Brown
"Brown is an aggressive, hard-hitting playmaker who just needs an injection of discipline into his game. The 49ers are in need of some playmaking in the box and the slot after losing Jimmie Ward and Azeez Al-Shair in free agency. Brown can thump in the run game and notched 10 interceptions across his last two years at Penn State."
NFL Writer Nick Wagoner on the 49ers Most Improved Position
"Enter big-ticket free agent Javon Hargrave, who accounted for 53 pressures and nine sacks last season with a 14.1% pressure rate (the best in the NFL among tackles with at least 500 pass rushes over the past two seasons). The Niners are counting on Hargrave to elevate their defensive line back to 2019 levels of dominance."
NFL Writer Dallas Robinson
"... it remains to be seen how the club's defense responds now that Steve Wilks has replaced DeMeco Ryans. Wilks was well-loved as the Panthers interim head coach, but San Francisco had typically opted for internal coaching staff promotions before tabbing Wilks as their new defensive coordinator."