Ranking the Niners best players: Nos. 6-10

Let’s rank the Niners best players. Since we’re killing time before training camp, this is the kind of mind doodling we do.

I already wrote a blog on the top five Niners. I ranked them like this: 1. Justin Smith 2. Patrick Willis 3. Aldon Smith 4. Vernon Davis 5. NaVorro Bowman.

In a way the next five are more interesting than the top five because they’re less obvious. You don’t have to be a genius to say that Patrick Willis, Justin Smith and Vernon Davis are three of the best players on the team. Those players are great. It’s the next five that are a little less clear. Who are they?

Let’s play the game.

These are who I think they are and why. I’d love to read what you think

6. Carlos Rogers, CB – Pro Bowler and Associated Press Second-Team All Pro in 2011. Six interceptions. Ninth best “success rate” (explained here) of all NFL cornerbacks. Covered slot receivers man-to-man with no safety help in sub-packages (about half of his snaps) – the toughest job in the Niners secondary. The most valuable and versatile defensive back on the team.

7. Ahmad Brooks, OLB – Played more than 90 percent of the defensive snaps last season. Excelled at rushing the quarterback and stuffing the run. Recorded 50 tackles, seven sacks, 15 QB hits and 46 QB pressures (third best on the team). A key cog on the Niners top-notch defensive front seven.

8. Ray McDonald, DL – Another key member of the Niners front seven, and a big reason the defense ranked No. 1 against the run by almost 20 yards per game (San Francisco allowed 75.4 rushing yards per game, No. 2 Houston allowed 94.4). McDonald was also a good pass rusher, notching 5.5 sacks in the regular season, and 2.5 in the NFC Championship Game against the New York Giants.

9. David Akers, K – Set the NFL record for field goals in a season with 44 in 2011. Set the franchise record for total points scored with 166. Earned his sixth Pro Bowl appearance and second AP First-Team All Pro selection. Was one of the biggest reasons the Niners had the No. 9 scoring offense in the NFL, considering they ranked 18th in offensive touchdowns scored (2.1 per game).

10. Andy Lee, P – Set a single-season NFL record in 2011 with a 44.0 net yards punting average. Earned his third Pro Bowl appearance and second AP First-Team All Pro selection. Won the Pro Football Writers of America Golden Toe Award for the best kicker or punter in the NFL. Saved the Niners from having to defend short fields by consistently pinning the other team deep in their own territory with booming, accurate punts.

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