Ranking the 49ers’ newcomers by expected impact

49ers turned over more than a quarter of their 53-man roster for season which begins Sept. 10 in Pittsburgh

SANTA CLARA, Calif. — The NFL is synonymous with “Not For Long.”

Even the 49ers, who have played in the last two NFC Championship games, have lost more than a quarter of their current roster. Changes are still possible as the team prepares to face the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 1 on the road on September 10.

Here is a subjective ranking of the 13 new faces and their potential contributions to the 49ers’ Super Bowl hopes:

  1. DT Javon Hargrave

Hargrave, who signed a four-year, $84 million contract in free agency, adds a sawed-off (6-foot-2) and relentless inside presence at 305 pounds to complement the more angular Arik Armstead (6-7, 290). If Nick Bosa’s holdout continues past Week 1, Hargrave will become even more important. Hargrave spent his first four seasons with the Steelers as a 3-4 nose tackle.

  1. K Jake Moody

With a quad strain, there’s no guarantee Moody will be ready for Week 1. Just in case, Matthew Wright was added to the practice squad. Kyle Shanahan, the coach, and general manager John Lynch are upbeat. Moody, a third-round draft pick and No. 99 overall, isn’t allowed to make rookie mistakes. He must lead the 49ers in scoring and consistently convert clutch field goal attempts, as his predecessor Robbie Gould did from 2017 to 2022.

  1. S Ji’Ayr Brown

Brown’s reputation as a playmaker who can hit led to a trade up to No. 87 in the third round — the 49ers’ first pick in the draft out of Penn State. Tashaun Gipson, a veteran, and All-Pro Talanoa Hufanga have established themselves as starting safeties for the 49ers. However, Gipson has been dealing with an undisclosed injury, and new defensive coordinator Steve Wilks appears set to use Brown and his skill set in some packages — sometimes with two other safeties on the field.

  1. QB Sam Darnold

Darnold pushed Trey Lance out of the building by demonstrating to Shanahan that he could run a new system effectively. Darnold has the best pure passing ability on the team, and he’s never had a better supporting cast. If Brock Purdy struggles and the 49ers lose a couple of games, Darnold’s popularity among fans will skyrocket. If Purdy is injured, Darnold will take over until Brandon Allen takes over.

  1. CB Isaiah Oliver

Oliver was a two-year, $6.7 million ($2.9 million guaranteed) deal to replace slot corner Jimmie Ward. Early reactions were mixed, with Shanahan saying Oliver wasn’t a lock to begin with and Deommodore Lenoir getting some inside work at nickel. Both Wilks and Lynch expressed satisfaction with Oliver’s progress. After making it through last season with the Falcons, he should have been able to put a torn ACL in 2021 behind him.

  1. DE Clelin Ferrell

Ferrell was a disappointment as the Raiders’ No. 4 overall pick the same year Bosa went No. 2 to the 49ers, but he was generally impressive during training camp. Nobody expects him to come in and have double-digit sacks, but he can play in a rotation with second-year man Drake Jackson and possibly jump-start his career. Ferrell’s character and effort have never been called into question.

  1. G-C Jon Feliciano

Feliciano takes over as starter if left guard Aaron Banks, center Jake Brendel, or right guard Spencer Burford are injured. Feliciano, a nine-year veteran with the Raiders, Buffalo Bills, and New York Giants, is regarded as a good locker room presence with a mean streak on the field.

  1. OLB Jalen Graham

Graham, a seventh-round draft pick out of Purdue (No. 255 overall), is a candidate to replace the departed Azeez Al-Shair in the starting lineup. With Fred Warner and Dre Greenlaw on the field, that position will be the first off the field when the 49ers use nickel and dime alignments that include Oliver and/or Brown.Graham, a 6-foot-3, 220-pound Purdue product, fits the mold of a running 49ers linebacker and is an intriguing blitz option for Wilks.

  1. WR Ronnie Bell

Bell was retained because of his run-after-catch ability in the preseason, despite the fact that two passes glanced off his hands and turned into interceptions. Bell, a potential punt return specialist, could be active and play in Week 1 if Ray-Ray McCloud’s wrist heals sufficiently after surgery.

  1. T Matt Pryor

Colton McKivitz, who replaced Mike McGlinchey at right tackle, is the 49ers offensive lineman who has fans worried. Rather than having a single swing tackle play both positions, the 49ers appear to be prepared with Jaylon Moore backing up Trent Williams and Pryor behind McKivitz. Pryor, who stands 6-foot-7 and weighs 332 pounds, has played in 60 games and made 24 starts for Philadelphia and Indianapolis.

  1. LB Dee Winters

Winters specialized in being around the ball and making big plays in college at TCU and could be a special teams contributor if Warner and Greenlaw stay healthy. He was drafted in the sixth round, 216th overall.

  1. TE Brayden Willis

Willis, a seventh-round draft pick out of Louisville and the 247th overall pick, demonstrated some receiving skills during training camp practices. He’s not an in-line tight end at 6-foot-4, 240 pounds, but he can work in space when flexed. When the real games start, he’ll most likely be inactive behind George Kittle, Ross Dwelley, and Charlie Woerner.

  1. QB Brandon Allen

What Purdy accomplished as the first-year No. 3 may never be repeated. The hope is that Allen, a four-year veteran, will stay put, with Purdy staying healthy and Darnold taking over if necessary. Spent the previous three seasons with Cincinnati and Joe Burrow, starting three games as a rookie for Denver in 2019.

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