Five most essential 49ers

Our very own Jack Hammer just published an interesting article on the five most essential 49ers. To read it, click here.

Hammer inspired me to make my own list. I’d be interested to read your list, too.

1. Vernon Davis. He makes everyone on the 49ers’ offense better.

2. Eric Reid. The 49ers’ defense did not play well when Reid wasn’t on the field last season.

3. Phil Dawson. Jim Harbaugh relies on his kicking game to win games and Dawson is one of the best kickers in the NFL.

4. Patrick Willis. The 49ers need Willis to solidify the middle of their defense while NaVorro Bowman is injured. Pro Football Focus ranked Willis as the second-highest rated inside linebacker next to Bowman last season.

5. Kendall Hunter. He’s the one proven change-of-pace back on the roster. Hunter complements Frank Gore better than a bigger back like Carlos Hyde would.

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  1. You do realize Gabbert is behind Kaepernick right….
    No CK our season is done..
    1 ck
    2 p willis
    3 crabs
    4 V. Davis
    5 reid

    1. Anquan Boldin and Michael Crabtree belong on this list—or close. They (mostly) are the ones who made our offense go down the field…..even when CK ran. Vernon often served as a decoy…..until reaching the red zone.

  2. 1. Kap, he goes down its over
    2. Gore, he gets the offense going
    3. Justin smith, did evryone forget when he got hurt our defense looked average
    4 patrick willis explanation not needed
    5.vernon he is the heart and soul of passing game

    1. I think Tank Carradine is going to have a big year as an interior rusher but I could be way off. Haven’t seen him in pads yet.

      1. Is that why justin didnt make your top 5? You think we have so much good depth? @grant cohn

              1. One of the main criticisms of J. Martin was his lack of strength at that point of attack. He’s athletic, but only a short term replacement on the edge. He may be a better pass blocker than Snyder; we can hope.

      2. I’m hoping you are right. Much depends on how he carries the added weight and push off the repaired knee.

  3. 1. Navarro Bowman~The best inside linebacker in the NFL. Once he’s healthly, I expect that title to remain intact.

    2. Aldon Smith~Knows when to play skinny and knows when to play phat. He has the most talent on the team.

    3. Mike Iupati~The sky’s the limit for this guy. Talent and attitude. Potential Hall of Famer.

    4. Colin Kaepernick~He’ll be taking the field with most weapons of any of his previous campaigns. According to the head coach, he has undergone a transformation into the modern day $6 million dollar man, a moniker formally associated with actor Lee Majors who played Steve Austin.

    5. Frank Gore~Time has caught up with him, but he still has the lateral quickness and vision. The best pass blocker in the league, and the heart of the team….

      1. Yea, not one of his better years, but the Debbie Downer still earned him Pro Bowl Honors. I expect a bounce back year from the soon to be Mercenary…..

  4. My answers are not only based on talent. Position depth and position importance are considerations. For example, I think Hunter is underrated, but we have good RB depth. Willis is a better ILB then Kaepernick is a QB, but I have Colin on the list.

    Aldon Smith – Transformed a very good 2010 defense into a great 2011 defense. Yes, Fangio helped but Manusky was no slouch.
    Bowman – One of the top defensive players in football.
    Kaepernick – If he goes, the offense goes splat.
    Vernon Davis – Creates gaps in defenses. His value goes beyond personal stats. Without him team speed dips way down.
    Reid – If his side/speed/smarts went down, the secondary would become run of the mill.

    Honorable Mentions – Joe Staley and Anthony Davis (especially of Boone holds out), Crabtree, Willis (until Bowman returns).

    1. The actual list is important but the rational used to comprise the list is key. You define your rational and I would agree with your perspective. The rational given for Vernon Davis- How much the offense suffered when he was out of the lineup last season is not very rational. The same effect might have occurred if Boldin was injured and could not play. When you have two targets and lose one it makes sense that the offense would suffer. Especially against playoff teams. That is reflective of a rationalization rather than a perspective gained through reason. When we rationalize we have already come to a conclusion and utilize facts to support our preconceived conclusions rather than using facts to come to our conclusion.

      1. Jack Hammer: are you making fun of me, can’t tell. Obviously, you must know I did research — but I’m trying to learn.

      2. Jack Hammer: OMG Exposed and I’m embarrassed. Leave it to me. . . . I didn’t even see the link in Grant’s post. Sorry Grant, I don’t always read the full article. Haha.

          1. Admit it Mary, you like the 49ers a little bit. I can tell.The seahawk forums are not that good huh?

            1. g-sixty:

              1. I like all of “you” better than the 49ers.

              2. I like Grant and this blog and the discussions. I always feel like I’ve learned something.

              3. And, If for some strange reason the Hawks don’t repeat, I will happily support the 49ers.

              1. Just a suggestion Mary- If you really want to learn read the entire article before coming to a conclusion. It is always better to delay coming to any conclusion because it is much harder to change our perspective once we have made up our minds. We tend to lose our objectivity once we have personalized and labeled anything as our opinion. We then see it any attack on our conclusion as an attack on ourselves. Someone who wants to continue to grow holds their theories lightly and lets them go when additional information proves otherwise.

  5. Lots of votes for Kendall Hunter, but little love for Frank Gore. Kudos to razor for including him. Not sure how the relatively seldom used change of pace RB is more important than Gore, unless the theory is that Hyde and Lattimore can easily take that load but nobody can replace the change of pace back. In saying that, Gore isn’t in my top 5 either…

    My list:

    1. Patrick Willis: The ILBs are vital for the 49ers D, and without Bowman for a large chunk of the season (and question marks over how well he’ll play when he returns) Willis becomes the most vital player for the 49ers.

    2. Colin Kaepernick: Many like to say any QB can run this ship, but Gabbert, Johnson, McBLT and Faulkner don’t inspire much confidence. If Kaepernick goes down, or has a bad year, the 49ers offense will struggle.

    3. Antoine Bethea: Reid is very important for the 49ers, but Bethea will likely be tasked with more coverage duties than Whitner was while Willis is asked to take over Bowman’s role. How well he plays the run and pass this year will be key to the 49ers success.

    4. Vernon Davis: He’s the next most important player on offense for the 49ers after Kaep. He may not be the reliable pass catcher the QB can count on, but he opens things up for everyone else on offense and is also important to the run game as a blocker.

    5. Justin Smith: The D is the strength of this team, and it starts with the play of the DL. Smith would be higher on the list if this was 2012, when he was a little younger and the depth a little more questionable. But the DL now looks like one of the strengths of the team, and Cowboy looked less dominant last season. Even so, he’s the best player on a strong DL and is important in occupying blockers so other players can make plays.

    1. Really like your list and the rational you give for each individual and their placement. I do think that with the additions of the wide receivers and if Davis plays the importance of Kaep diminishes some what. But second is a good place for him. Last year he was without a doubt # 1 because his legs could compensated for the decline in the passing production due to variable factors.

  6. Not sure how you make this list without your QB. The QB is on every teams essential top 5. You can say what you want about Vernon but where are we at if Blaine Gabbert is our QB?

      1. Leaving the QB off your top five is a reflection of a lack of objectivity. Every other players short comings can be mitigated or compensated for except for the QB. Unless you have Peterson as your running back and even then we all saw what happened. That is why they get paid the highest salaries and are picked higher in the draft per available talent than any other position. Grant?Hammer you might justify thinking your smarter than any other poster on this site, however the history of the NFL contradicts your opinions.

        1. I think the object of Grant’s list is more about passive-aggresively NOT having Kaepernick on the list as opposed to objectively listing the most essential 49ers.

          Kaep was @ 95% of the offense the last time the 49ers played. I’d say he’s pretty essential… He goes down and the 49ers are done for. Kendall Hunter goes down, nobody may even notice…

  7. 1. Kaepernick. Because he’s the starting QB and the starting QB is every teams most essential player.

    2. Gore. We’re a run first team and he’s our starting running back and behind him are ?’s and guys with little experience what else needs to be said.

    3. Jim Harbaugh. The glue that binds, a man the players want to win for. Without Harbaugh this team would be a 10 win team that would struggle to make it past the first round in the tournament if it made it in at all.

    4. Phil Dawson. ( Stole this one from Grant, wouldn’t have thought of it if I hadn’t seen it on his.) Grant is totally correct on this. With our grind it out mentality games end up being closer then they should be and we’ve relied upon the leg of our kicker more then once in the past to deliver us a victory. Without a good kicker the 49ers might be a 9-7 team.

    5. Colins primary receiving target. Doesn’t matter who it is; Boldin, Crab, Johnson etc… if Colin doesn’t have a guy whom he can instantly lock onto after the snap we simply have no passing game.

    1. Would have put Harbaugh in there too but the list was top 5 irreplaceable players so I had to leave him out.

    2. I gathered by proxy what your list was so I didn’t click on the link and Grant’s article just says 49ers so I included the coach.

        1. I’ll set up a macro to click it every 10 seconds. You’ll be the most read contributor on the site by morning.

            1. I can assure you if that story involves a Giants player winning an award I had nothing to do with it.

  8. 1.vic fangio
    2.jim tomsula
    3.ed donatell
    4.jim Harbaugh

    Where would we be without the defense? And with new guys in this year..they’re essential…
    Jim is the leader.we need him..Kaepernick can ascend or descend..but offense starts with your qb.

  9. The way I look at this, is what 5 players lost due to injury for the 2014 season would hurt us the most:

    -Colin Kaepernick
    -Patrick Willis
    -Eric Reed
    -Phil Dawson
    -Joe Staley

    Just missed the list:
    -Anthony Davis
    -Kevin McDermott

  10. 1. Frank Gore. Gore is still a critical part of the offense since he is the bell cow and excels in pass protection.
    2. Anquan Boldin. The consummate leader of the WR corps after just one season. His durability and play-making skill set will be counted on again this season.
    3. Patrick Willis. He still puts the fear of God into his opponents even though he’s not the best ILB on the 49ers anymore.
    4. Andy Lee. His booming kicks almost always gives the defense a great position to go to work at.
    5. Tramaine Brock and Eric Reid. Two guys who need to show that last season was a sign of things to come and will need to allow provide stability in what could be a constant shifting in the secondary landscape.

    1. 9er fans had been having the same debate about Kaep. Seattle should do what San Francisco did. Sign him. It’s pretty obvious. The Hawks were perennially 7-9 before Russell.

  11. Jack:

    Congratulations on securing a regular gig at You’re on your way.

    I have a some questions/observations.

    1. You obviously didn’t run your list of 5 Veterans Who Won’t Make the 53 Man Roster by 23jordan or rocket. What were you thinking? On the other hand, Razor will definitely approve.

    2. What did you do wrong that got you assigned to cover the Buccaneers? Was that the price for securing the 49ers assignment?

    3. I presume that forcing the reader to hit the “Next” button so many times to get through your lists somehow makes money for the site. (Does each hit of the button count as a page hit even though the page doesn’t change?) If not, please let the powers-that-be know that the format is tedious and distracts from the content.

    4. Did you intend to reveal your name?

    1. Thanks Claude. I chose the Bucs piece because I do some stuff on them for another site so I was already familiar.

      Not sure why they do the slideshows that way, but will pass that along.

      1. Grimey9er: I know and until you see it on paper, all the great players you very well might lose and all the stress you’re going to be under rebuilding and keeping a winning team in place all at the expense of one player, it doesn’t make sense.

        Yes, I hope they Hawks implement a smart team-friendly contract like the 49ers gave to Kaep.

        1. Of all the players they might lose none will have the impact of losing Wilson. In 2011 they had the great D and Lynch. The only thing missing was Wilson and guess what 7-9.

          When you have a great QB you’re never really rebuilding.

    2. Lumping me in with 23J Claude? What did I ever do to you?

      If Jack would have ran his list past me I would have told him:

      Any list not featuring the QB is flawed from the start.

      Any list featuring a Kicker neglects to remember the Niners went to the SB with a kicker in the midst of one of the worst seasons ever.

      Any list that features a backup RB who barely touched the ball last year…well you get the point.

      Jack seems to like to double down on ridiculous statements just like his idol too. Anybody who thinks the Niners would be a 6 win team without Vernon Davis either doesn’t have a clue, or is purposely trying to drum up controversy.

      1. rocket:

        If you read Jack’s piece on the 5 Veterans Who Won’t Make the Roster, you’ll see why I lumped you together with 23jordan.

        1. JK Claude, I knew what you were doing. I forgot to put a smiley or something behind the sentence.

  12. Cannot disagree with the list. If not hurt, I assume you would have Bowman, instead of Willis. Will be interesting to see how Willis does playing the “Mike” and having more freedom to make tackles. Could be more of what we saw pre-Bowman.

  13. If I’m going to criticize, I should probably do my own list to give others the same shot at me.

    1) Kaepernick – If Kap goes out with an injury the season is over. They could possibly eke out a 500 record if the defense stepped up, but that’s about it.

    2) Joe Staley – The anchor of the Oline and there is a serious question as to whether the Niners have anybody who could replace him and hold up over the long haul.

    3) Pat Willis – Not having Bowman for at least the first half of the season makes it imperative for Willis to stay healthy. If he misses any time, the Niners could be in big time trouble, although they have some pretty good, but unproven depth with Borland and Wilhoite.

    4) Chris Culliver – My reasoning is simple: if Culliver can’t play or doesn’t show some of the form he had from two years ago, the team doesn’t have a second CB they can rely on which would be a disaster. Cook has looked good so far but struggled greatly in Minny. The Niners need Culliver to be a consistent starter this year.

    5) Frank Gore – He’s slowing down and was a non factor in the playoffs last year, but that is due to overuse during the season. Gore is still at the heart of what this offense believes in and they need to use him intelligently this year so he still has something left for the playoffs. Without him the Niner offense was one dimensional. Good depth behind him but unproven.

    1. Good stuff Rocket. You hit it right on the head with most of your comments. How does Hunter make it on the lists of 2 of the most greatest football minds in journalism? How many carries did he have last year?

      I agree that we can’t use Gore like we did last year, but with the plethora of backs we have on the roster I’m sure we would be just fine if Hunter went down again like he did in our Super bowl run.

      And yes we struggled with out Davis last year and I agree he plays a pivotal role in this offense….but who exactly were our alternative options when he went down last season??? We may have slightly improved in that area.

  14. The highest paid positions are QB, Left tackle and Corner back because these have the highest impact on the game so…
    1) Kaepernick – 7th highest rated QB in the League by QBR

    2) Joe Staley – One of the best left tackles in the league

    3) Trevor Brock – Our best corner and a position where our back ups are questionable

    4) Pat Willis – No Bowman for the first half of the season.

    5) Vernon Davis – The speed of the offense slows to a halt when he isn’t in and the use of 8 man fronts goes way up.

    Please no kickers, we should be able to find a replacement level kicker even though we stayed with Akers way too long.

    No Running backs, we have sick depth at running back and two who have run for close to 5 yards a carry when called upon.

    1. That Trevor Brock is one heck of a player … the problem is that nobody’s heard of the guy :)

  15. Thanks Leo.

    Yeah the two great minds seem to forget to add pertinent info like the fact the Niners had Boldin and not much else when Davis went down. Had Crabtree been healthy, they could have absorbed Davis’ loss much easier. With the WR depth they have this season, they can deal with a loss like that much easier. McDonald will also have the benefit of a year in the system.

    I’m not trying to downplay Davis’ value here as he is a very important part of the offense and essential to it’s success the past few years. However the idea that this team would go into the fetal position and lose 10 games without him is silly. They would fill Davis’ role and/or go to a 3 WR attack more than they have previously.

    This is all moot anyway as Davis is already backing down publicly and will almost certainly be here when the season begins.

  16. All the players that you (Grant) and Jack Hammer listed are replaceable with the exception of Willis and Reid.

    Players who are NOT replaceable (big drop off from starter to backup) are:
    1. CK7
    2. Aldon Smith

    Both of you geniuses failed to mention them.

      1. I dont think we beat any good teams in those 5 games
        Aldon is on pace to be top 5 rusher all time(which is why 49ers are being so patient)

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