How many players on the 49ers deserve an “A” or “A-” grade? I count six. Here’s my list, and I’m eager to read yours.
Aldon Smith: A-. The best pass rusher in the NFL from 2011 to 2013, and a bad pass rusher in 2014. Suspended for the first nine games last season. When he returned, he was not in football shape. If he’s in shape this year, he should be an “A” player once again.
NaVorro Bowman: A-. Was an “A” before he tore his ACL and MCL. Probably won’t be an “A” player ever again. Probably can’t play 1,000 snaps next season. Maybe he can play 800.
Joe Staley: A-. Started to decline last season. Still an “A” run-blocker, but has become a “B-” pass-protector. Might need to move to right tackle in a season or two.
Antoine Bethea: A-. The best pass-covering strong safety in the NFL and an adequate run-defender. The 49ers front-seven was so good last season, they didn’t need Bethea to be a good run defender.
Anquan Boldin: A-. Has been an “A-” his whole career. Not fast enough to threaten defenses on 3rd-and-15, but there is no one better than Boldin at converting third-and-7.
Bruce Miller: A-. Elite blocker and receiver for a fullback. Ordinary running back in short-yardage and goal-line plays.