Even with all of the success the 49ers have had over the past two seasons under Head Coach Jim Harbaugh there a lot left to accomplish, there is still meat left on the bone. In 2011 the 49ers lost to the New York Giants in the NFC Championship and this past season they lost in Super Bowl XLVII to the Ravens. The 49ers were only a few plays away from being Super Bowl champs so the expectations heading into 2013 will be Super Bowl or bust.
As far as the 2012 season goes everything changed when starting QB Alex Smith sustained a concussion. Backup Colin Kaepernick was thrown into the fire and responded. Kaepernick responded so well in fact that Coach Harbaugh decided that he would remain the starter even after Smith recovered. The decision to go with Kaepernick at QB completely changed the 49ers offense and made them much more dynamic and explosive. With Kaepernick at QB the 49ers went to more of a spread option attack that opposing defenses couldn’t quite figure out. Kaepernick exploded onto the scene after throwing for 1,814 yards and 10 touchdowns and rushing for 415 yards and 5 touchdowns in just 7 starts. RB Frank Gore was back to himself, rushing for 1,214 yards and WR Michael Crabtree had his best season as a professional.
The defense is the foundation the 49ers are built on and is the main reason for their success. Widely known as the most physical defense in the league the 49ers struck fear in opposing offenses. In 2012, the 49ers defense had 5 first team All-Pro selections in LBs Aldon Smith, NaVorro Bowman, and Patrick Willis. Safety Dashon Goldson and punter Andy Lee rounded off the 1st team selections. They also had 2 second team All-Pro selections in DE Justin Smith, and LB Ahmad Brooks.
GM Trent Baalke has done a terrific job over the years of building through the draft and stockpiling talent to make the 49ers relevant again. The 2012 draft class definitely fits the bill of previous draft classes; the class has several premium players joining a team that’s already chock-full of talent at every position. With Dashon Goldson leaving in free agency to go to Tampa Bay the 49ers had a void at one of the safety positions heading into the draft. Insert Eric Reid. Reid is the prototypical safety with great size, speed and athleticism to roam in the secondary. He should have no problem stepping into the role vacated by Goldson. Cornellius Carradine and running back Marcus Lattimore are both 1st round talents coming off significant injuries. Their talent and potential make them worth the risks and the 49ers aren’t expected to play either significantly in 2013. Quinton Patton is a solid receiver who should see the field as a rookie, especially after the Achilles injury to Michael Crabtree. The remainder of the class will be backups and developmental players, but the 49ers have proved recently that they can develop players.
Draft Grade: A
I’ll keep this short and sweet. Coming off a season where they were a couple of plays away from being Super Bowl champs, the expectations for a loaded San Francisco roster in 2013 will be Super Bowl win or bust. This is a franchise that is familiar with wining (5 super bowl wins) and coming up short won’t be acceptable in the Bay area for much longer.