49ers capable of quick turnaround but plenty of work remains

Here’s a look at the Super Bowl prospects of the San Francisco 49ers, who finished the season 6-10. The tiers consist of: realistic Super Bowl expectations; should contend, but there are question marks; middle of the pack; lots of work to do; and nowhere close.

Westgate odds of winning Super Bowl LIII: 30-1

Middle of the pack: It was a tough call between "middle of the pack" and "should contend," but it's hard to declare the Niners full-fledged contenders yet. They closed last season 5-0 with quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo taking the league by storm and changing the perception of the franchise. Those wins don't mean much heading into 2018. Having Garoppolo for a full season gives the 49ers and their fans reason to believe in good things ahead. Still, to get to the point where they can be considered legitimate challengers to winning the Super Bowl, there's still a lot of work that must be done on the roster and within the NFC West division.

To take the next step, the Niners need to upgrade the talent around Garoppolo, particularly on the interior of the offensive line. A boost at receiver and running back would also be welcome. On defense, the 49ers have pressing needs at cornerback and edge rusher. The number of needs isn't overwhelming but some of those positions can be difficult to find elite talent.

The good news for the Niners is they are going to have more than $100 million in salary-cap space and nine draft picks, including four in the first three rounds, to bolster the roster. But before we can declare them Super Bowl contenders, we must first see that they're capable of winning games in the division (they were 1-5 against the NFC West last year with the lone win against the J.V. Rams in Week 17) and that they can push for a playoff spot. Postseason contention certainly seems plausible in 2018 but there's a big difference between being in the playoff mix and being considered a potential Super Bowl champion.