Is any team more stacked at linebacker than the 49ers?
The short answer is a firm and emphatic no.
Last year, the 49ers had two All-Pros in Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman starting on the inside, with pass-rushing specialist Aldon Smith and another Pro Bowler in Ahmad Brooks on the outside, although Smith missed five games due to his well documented off-the-field issues.
Smith will miss more time should the league choose to suspend him for his most recent misdemeanors.
However, the punishment is expected to be lenient after he was granted an effective reprieve from his DUI and weapons charges, receiving a 12-day jail sentence, which can be served on a work crew on Mondays, with a one-day credit.
Despite his off-the-field difficulties, Smith—per Williamson—recently stated he is in "the best shape ever," a statement that should have 49er fans in raptures, given that Smith at his best led the league in sacks with 19.5 in 2012.
With all members 100 percent healthy, this is a starting core worthy of an A+ grade.
Unfortunately, with Bowman still recuperating from his torn ACL and MCL suffered in last season's NFC Championship Game, this is a group that does not have its full resources at its disposal.
In spite of Bowman's absence, this is still arguably the best linebacking core in the league.
That is because the 49ers have plenty of options capable of filling in for their starters on the inside and the outside.
Few teams will have more talent competing to replace a player at a position than the 49ers, who have Michael Wilhoite, Chris Borland, Shayne Skov and Nick Moody fighting for Bowman's spot.
Front-runner Wilhoite has the advantage of familiarity, having already excelled when playing in reserve of Willis, while rookies Borland and Skov, although the latter went undrafted, come into the league following superb collegiate careers.
Borland was Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year in his final season at Wisconsin, and Skov rebounded from a torn ACL, MCL and broken tibia in 2011 to be earn first-team All-Pac 12 honors in 2013.
On the outside, Dan Skuta and Corey Lemonier have the talent to come in and potentially replace Smith, as they displayed perfectly in 2013 when he missed time last season.
Skuta ended the season as the No. 16 3-4 outside linebacker in the league, per PFF, who also ranked Lemonier as the most efficient rookie edge-rusher in 2013.
Further competition comes courtesy of rookie fifth-round pick Aaron Lynch, activated from the PUP list on Sunday, and Chase Thomas—a former Stanford linebacker who, along with fellow Cardinal alumnus Skov, has already earned praise from Harbaugh.
If Bowman is healthy, this is unquestionably the best linebacking crew in football. Now it all depends on whether his prospective replacement can keep it that way.