The NFL has a ranking of the top 100 players in the league right now, one poll is being voted on by the players themselves and the other poll is being voted on by fans. Let’s take a look at the 49ers players involved in the player’s only vote. As of now there have been five 49ers players put into the top 100 with 2 more certain to be among the top 20. The 49ers have the most players among the top 100 with 7 players on the list.
From the bottom on up we have at number 85 on the list, Navorro Bowman, linebacker out of Penn State. He has been with the 49ers for 3 years and really came into his own last season as he took on an expanded role in the defense following the departure of Takeo Spikes. Bowman actually led the team last season with 143 tackles. He was named an All-Pro in his first season as a regular starter. Bowman started every game last season and will be expected to really make a name for himself this season with more people watching to see what the 49ers defense can do.
Cornerback Carlos Rogers makes his appearance at number 69 on the list. Rogers played his first season with the 49ers last year after playing with the Washington Redskins earlier in his career. After recording only 8 interceptions in 6 years with Washington, Rogers netted 6 in a single season with the 49ers. He started every game last season, which was also a first in his career. He proved to be a dependable cornerback able to cover the opposing team’s best wide receivers every single week. Rogers was ranked ahead of some of the other higher profile cornerbacks in the league, proving that players don’t necessarily buy into judging a person solely on their names but ranking them primarily on their performance.
At number 67 we have our first offensive player with left tackle Joe Staley. Staley had a few memorable hustle blocks last season in pulls on run plays and quarterback draws. In particular, the long run Staley made to allow Alex Smith to score on the bootleg play in the playoffs against the New Orleans Saints. His athleticism enabled him to move around a lot more than your typical offensive lineman who looks like they are blocking while wearing cinderblocks for shoes. Staley was named to the first Pro Bowl of his career last season. Staley was able to remain healthy and stared every game last season for the first time in three seasons.
Vernon Davis was ranked at number 43, with NFL.com stating there were two tight ends ahead of him. One would think that based on Vernon Davis having a much longer and more successful career while playing in what has primarily been a run first offense he should be ranked much higher. Three years ago Vernon Davis tied the then NFL record with 13 touchdowns in a season for a tight end. Last season Davis started every game and had 67 catches, 792 yards and 6 touchdowns. In last year’s playoffs Vernon had a monster run with 10 catches for 292 yards and 4 touchdowns and an insane average of 29 yards per catch. Davis should be able to have another outstanding year as the 49ers have added several weapons this offseason.
Frank Gore makes a huge leap from 94 last seasons to number 28 this season. Gore attributes his rise on the list to the 49ers having their first winning season in his career. Frank has been nicked up by injuries the past few years. But last season he only missed one game which enabled him to get off to an incredible start of 5 games with 100 yards rushing. He finished the season with over 1200 yards and 8 touchdowns. One of the more all around backs in the league, Gore is likely underappreciated in the fantasy stats world of football today. Frank Gore’s ability to run, catch passes out of the backfield, and do an excellent job in pass blocking will make him a difficult player to replace in the coming years.
The next two 49ers who will inevitably be on the list are Justin Smith and Patrick Willis. Both will be named inside the top 20, but that portion of the vote has yet to become public. Each of these players has been a dominant force for the 49ers defense since they arrived in San Francisco.
Justin Smith is an absolute beast of a man, able to bring down a quarterback and an offensive lineman at the same time with just one arm. Smith had 45 tackles last season and 9 more in the playoffs. He also finished the season with 9.5 sacks. His role is a crucial one for the defense in that he ties up so much attention it enables players like Aldon Smith to get in the backfield much easier. Smith is known as one of the hardest working players on the team as well as for his stamina and ability to hardly every miss a snap during a game. He recently stated that he believes he has three or four good years left in him. Fans and players alike can count on those years to be productive and dominant.
Lastly is Patrick Willis, who is the heart and soul of the 49ers defense. Willis was drafted 6 years ago and was expected to be a game changing linebacker. He has lived up to and exceeded all expectations and is continuing to ensure there will be a place for him in the Hall of Fame. Last season Willis had 97 tackles in the regular season and an additional 16 more in the playoffs. His ability to outrun most players on offense and track any ball carrier is uncanny. The hits he puts on opposing players often leave them lying on the field long after the hits are delivered. The scary part about Willis as he enters this season is that he is just now entering his prime. Patrick Willis and Navorro Bowman should be a linebacker combination that will be known and feared league wide.
The 49ers are tied for first with seven players ranked in the top 100 overall. Players at skill positions like Gore and Vernon Davis, defense and offense lineman, two linebackers and a cornerback. This team is loaded and looks primed for high expectations this year.