We all like to debate. It’s fun. Well, it should be. In the spirit of debate, here is my list of the top 10 San Francisco 49ers on the current roster.
Bruce Miller, FB, #49
Mike Iupati, LG, #77
Ahmad Brooks, OLB, #55
Phil Dawson, K, #9
Anthony Davis, RT, #76
Eric Reid, FS, #35
Andy Lee, P, #4
10. Joe Staley, LT, #74: The anchor of the offensive line, along with Iupati, Staley protects quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s blind side. A first round draft choice in 2007, Staley has played and started in all 98 of his games as a 49er and has racked up 3 Pro Bowl and All-Pro selections. Aside from his webcast “The Joe Show” on 49ers.com, he’s locked up with the Niners until 2017. Good news for Kap.
9. Aldon Smith, OLB, #99: Off field issues and lack of production without Justin Smith in the lineup kept him lower on the list, but there’s no doubting Aldon’s supreme pass rushing ability. As a rookie, he came just a half sack shy of tying Jevon Kearse’s rookie record of 14.5, and was still named Pro Football Writer’s of America Defensive Rookie of the Year despite not starting a single game (Von Miller was the AP Rookie of the Year). He followed his rookie season with an unreal 2012, setting the franchise record with 19.5 sacks and becoming the fastest player to reach 30 sacks in his career. On top of being named team MVP that season, he set a Monday Night Football record with 5.5 sacks against the Chicago Bears.
8. Frank Gore, RB, #21: The franchise leader in rushing yards, Gore is the epitome of Jim Harbaugh’s offense. The power back combines tremendous vision and deceptive maneuvering to outthink defenders and move the chains. If any of you follow me on Twitter, you’ll see my page explode with #FRANKTHETANK each time he crosses the goal line. He’s done it many times in his career, 60 to be exact, to go along with 9,967 yards and 5 Pro Bowl selections. For a team that has seen McElhenny, Perry, Craig and Hearst, Gore may be the best of the bunch.
7. Vernon Davis, TE, #85: As I recently wrote, Davis is the heart of the 49ers. Coming off a season where he tied his career high in touchdown receptions with 13, Davis may see a drop in production if Anquan Boldin and Michael Crabtree are healthy, but that doesn’t make him any less of a threat. With great hands and mind-boggling speed for a tight end, Davis is one of the Niners most feared weapons. He capped off last season with his second Pro Bowl and first All-Pro selection.
6. Justin Smith, DE, #94: I can’t praise the man they call “The Cowboy” enough. While his stats may not be flashy, he impacts every play, as personified by being ranked 29th of the top 100 players of 2013. Whether he is causing a double team or busting up the run, Smith is an invaluable part of the 49ers. An animal on the field, his career accomplishments include 5 Pro Bowls, 3 Pro Bowls and an Ed Block Courage award (2010).
5. Colin Kaepernick, QB, #7: The future of the Niners and the man charged with leading them back to the glory days of Montana and Young, Kaepernick is the 49ers rock star. With blazing speed and a cannon for an arm, Kap is a duel threat with massive potential. Enough has been said and written about his pocket struggles, but his potential to be great is sky high. ESPN analyst Ron Jaworski has even said Kaepernick has the tools to possibly be the best ever. While that remains to be seen, he’s already been to two NFC Championship games and a Super Bowl. Expect 2014 to be the year of Kaepernick.
4. Anquan Boldin, WR, #81: With hands of stone, Boldin made an immediate impact on the 49ers in his debut against the Green Bay Packers, pulling in 13 grabs for 208 yards and a touchdown. He recently re-upped with the 49ers, determined to win his second Super Bowl title, and if he can remain healthy, there’s no question he’ll be one of the contributing factors to the Quest for Six. With tough secondaries throughout the division, San Francisco will no doubt rely on Boldin’s terrific hands as he has established a reputation as one of the best possession receivers in the league.
3. Michael Crabtree, WR, #15: After a rocky start to his career that saw a rookie holdout and numerous injuries, Crabtree has responded by becoming the 49ers best receiver. Although he missed most of 2013 with an ACL injury, he returned as if he never missed a beat, averaging almost 15 yards a catch, including a 60 yarder against the St. Louis Rams in his first game back. 2012 was by far Crabtree’s biggest offensive explosion, where he hauled in 85 catches for 1,105 yards and 9 touchdowns. The most dangerous part of Crabtree’s receiving game, however, is his ability to gain yards after the catch. Barring injury, 2014 could be another huge season for King Crab.
2. Patrick Willis, ILB, #52: I firmly believe that when his career is over, Willis will be mentioned in the same breath as Lawrence Taylor, Dick Butkis, Ray Lewis and the other legends who played the linebacker position. In his seven seasons, he has 7 Pro Bowl and 6 All-Pro selections. Willis first made an impression when he chased down Larry Fitzgerald in his rookie season, and that was just the start of his dominance. He’s led the NFL in tackles twice, and, along with the number one player on the list, part of the best inside linebacking duo in the league.
1. NaVarro Bowman, ILB, #53: Bowman was the best player on the 49ers last season. While this year remains in doubt, Bowman stepped up as the leader of the defense and even outshined Willis, picking up 145 tackles (5th in the NFL), 5.0 sacks and 2 INTs including the game-winner against the Atlanta Falcons during the final home game at Candlestick Park. Bowman was also last year’s postseason tackles leader and garnered his second consecutive Pro Bowl and third straight All-Pro selection.
Did I miss your favorite player? Do you agree? Who’s too high or too low? Let us know in the comment section. Let the debate begin!
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