Is Eric Reid the best player on the 49ers defense?

Who will be the 49ers’ best defensive player in 2015?

I don’t think it will be inside linebacker NaVorro Bowman. He was the Niners’ best defensive player in 2013, but I don’t expect him to play anywhere near that level just one year after missing a season due to a torn ACL and MCL.

I don’t think outside linebacker Aldon Smith will be the 49ers’ best defensive player, either. I think he’ll play near the level he played last season, which was nothing special.

I think the 49ers’ best defensive player will be free safety Eric Reid. He had a bit of a sophomore slump last season, but he was a Pro Bowler in 2013, he’s only 23, he’s healthy and in fantastic shape.

What do you think?

This article has 120 Comments

  1. I hate speculating about things like this. I know it’s good for your number of posts, but I think it’s silly.

      1. Mostly I think that you are a real downer
        I know that reporters aren’t supposed to be fans, but you always have such a grim view.
        Maybe Lowell spanked you during 49er games for disturbing him when you were young, but please stop subjecting the rest of us to your re-stimulated childhood trauma.

        I think that both Aldon and Bowman will be back to Probowl form and we will probably have an top defense by the end of the year

        It seems crazy that we could lose Willis, Smith Borland and McDonald and stll kick butt, but I do think that we are well set up for that to happen.

      2. You probably think it’s fun to play with dolls, too, Grant. As to the question, Reid isn’t even the best safety — that goes to Bethea. Bowman is the best player on the defense and has exceeded his best pre-injury speed which is a bit incredible. I expect him to be at about 80-85%, which is better than most other LBs. Aldon Smith may become Defensive Player of the Year. Now that WAS fun…

        1. Reeds level of play always depended on his aggression. Since his concussion his play has dropped off. I don’t think that fear just goes away so I do not see him returning back to his rookie form.

  2. The 49ers defense is so loaded, it’s going to be hard to pick.


    Aldon Smith (there is nothing we’re hearing that would make anyone, with any sense, say that it’s likely he’s going to play at the same level he did last year).






  3. Not sure how you define best player on a multi position squad. The best linebacker isn’t necessarily the best player although one could argue it’s the highest skill position on the defense. Is the best player the one that generates the most stats or the one that fulfills the duties of his position the best, they aren’t always the same person.

    You can argue that Reid is the best safety and that Brock is the best defensive back and that Bowman is the best inside linebacker and that Harold is the best outside and that Dorsey is the best inside defensive lineman and that Armstead is the best outside lineman but how do you differentiate between them which is the best overall when they aren’t asked to do the same thing?

    By the way I was just throwing names out there, I certainly don’t think Armstead is the best outside defensive lineman.

  4. I don’t think outside linebacker Aldon Smith will be the 49ers’ best defensive player, either. I think he’ll play near the level he played last season, which was nothing special.

    What made you come to this conclusion Grant?

    1. The beat writers seem to agree that Aldon looked like the best player on the field during 2014 preseason/training camp. Then he sat for 9 weeks, which is plenty of time to get rusty and out of sync.

      Contract year, stayed out of trouble, motivated, healthy – all the planets are aligning for a big season. The bigger worry, imo, is extending him after 2015.

      1. My hope is that he’ll be signing an extension mid-season, because he’ll have proven all he needs to by then for the team to know they need to keep him around long term.

        1. Cornellius and Aldon getting a private lesson from Haley’s Comet. Coincidence? Don’t believe in them….

        2. Best Player. That’s easy. It will be Trent Baalke. Recently seen coaching players up during MiniCamps that Grant reported on, so the York’s could save a few bucks balancing the books for all the overdrafts spent on Harbaugh’s quality and abundant group, now the York’s can save even more money by trading Alodon smith for Tim Tebow and training Baalke to be an edge rusher.

  5. Smart money is on Aldon Smith or Navorro Bowman. (Bowman is 18 months removed from the injury, and will be nearly 20 months removed come September; Aldon will be back in training camp and not going rusty on the bench for 9 weeks of the season. So I disagree with Grant’s analysis.)

    “Underrated” selections would be Reid, Brock, Lynch, Tank or Dial.

    “Come from nowhere” selections would be Reaser, Armstead, Harold or Wilhoite.

    “Are you freakin’ kidding me?” selection would be Okoye.

  6. My choice is Aldon Smith as best defensive player. Its a contract year. If he ever intends to return to 2011-2012 form, this is the season.

    He seems bright eyed and bushy tailed. That fact he’s occasionally featured on 49er webcasts is a sign he finally has his stuff together.

    Surprise Candidate – Ian Williams

    1. Yeah, but I still remember how John Harbaugh raved about Aldon during the practice games with Baltimore last year. Also, during TC the beat writers pretty much said he was “unblockable”. I know a lot happened after that, but I just couldn’t understand the drop off in production from two sacks his first game back to nothing the rest of the year (I think I recalled that correctly).

      1. Part of the answer was that Aldon was getting double and triple teamed a fair bit, and also barely missed a few sacks. That’s why it’s important to measure other things other than sacks, such as pressures/hurries, and look at how many men must block him.

        1. Yeah, I know and I thought of that as I posted. But in the end, sacks are a clear statistic (at least for fans). Almost sacks, not so much.

          1. Slight disagreement here. “Almost sacks” are “Hurries” and are helpful to DBs.

            1. But when it comes time to get that big contract for Aldon, do you think he’ll be payed as well if he has 2 sacks and 13 hurries as opposed to 13 sacks and 2 hurries?

  7. Isn’t Grant the guy who says Reid had a sophmore slump last year and is just average or below in coverage? Tells you what he thinks of the defensive talent this year. Very few of you have said Lynch. He played very little last year and tied for sacks, had 4 batted passes. I think Dial could be good this year along with A Smith or Bethea.

    1. Perhaps Grant is using a form of reverse psychology in order to get the most out of our players. History has proven that close to all the players he has been down on in the past turn out to be successful, so i take this as a blessing to the 49er nation and you should do.

      Now if an analyst, current/former player, coach or talent evaluator that might actually have insider info made this declaration on behalf of Aldon, I would be concerned.

      Expect a career year from Aldon.

    2. It could be Lynch, if we had released Brooks. But Brooks is here, evidently in great shape, and getting paid $6.5M uncontested (i.e. Baalke curiously did not negotiate him down like he’s done with other high priced cut candidates). For those reasons, mostly the money, I’m guessing Lynch never gets much of a chance to shine like that. I would be surprised if Brooks is traded before the season starts though.

    3. wilson,

      Grant is the guy who says a lot of things. Lot’s of wild speculation, crazy predictions and crack pot theories that I’m still hoping, for his sake, he’s advancing cynically, for the sake of blog hits.

  8. The best player on D and it’s not close is Bowman! 18 months removed and dominating practices. Comeback player of the year and will be motivated to prove he is the best in the game.

    1. Keep some perspective about it; he’s doing well during OTA’s, dominating is a bit strong. Let’s see how he’s feeling and looking when he’s trying to shed blocks and putting hits on running backs. Plus you’re hearing second and third hand from 49er people about how he looks. Not saying that he isn’t going to be fine but just remember the source and the fact that they aren’t even hitting each other yet.

  9. Not sure how you can say smith is gonna have the same kind of yr as last season…missed 9 games and had tons of mental things to overcome. He’s motivated healthy and working for w new contract,

    1. He is one guy that has a lot to prove after an injury riddled year. The “supposed #1” corner needs to have a solid year. I think he will!

  10. #99-Aldon Smith will be the teams best Defensive Player! No suspension this year. He really didn’t play bad last year after returning. He had plenty of “pressures” but miss out on a couple of sacks! #53-Bowman will return very close to his 2011 form which is WAAAY better than most!!! (Especially if he tanks the knee brace!). 49ers r loaded on defense & will be a “Top 10” defense if not “Top 5”!!!!!

  11. So Aldon Smith will be nothing like last year based on what besides “I think”?

    Is he too old now at 25?

    Did he suffer a major injury that has lingering affects on his athleticism?

    Did he not show up to OTA’s in great shape and motivated?

    Or is it just easy to kick a guy when he’s down and pretend that he doesn’t have a fairly large body of work that shows numerous dominant abilities amd rare performances?

    I “think” the latter is the case. I also “think” it’s good to actually cite real life reasons and relevant information for a projection to have any kinda validity or meaning to it.

    1. Shawn,

      Why in the world would a “journalist” want to waste time on things like supporting evidence?

  12. Three logical candidates, Bowman, Smith, Reid. All three are going to have to play at their highest level for the Niners to compete. Their excellence will be undistinguishable, so there you have it – all three of them.

  13. The most valuable defensive participant will be E. Magini. Fangio’s style was to let very talented players shine on their own, not a lot of blitz packages not a lot of creative scheming. Very much like George Seifert, Mangini’s style will be closer to Ray Rhodes. We will see many different schemes and blitz packages. This 49er D might not be good enough to win on talent alone but they are athletic enough to shine within aggressive defensive schemes. So I predict this years defensive MVP will actually be an MVC.

    1. If (a big “if) Brock or Reaser can occasionally cover on an island, multiply Mangini’s creativity x 10.

  14. Not sure who is the best on defense, but if all the starters can just do their jobs then the entire defense will be very good as a unit.
    One or two defensive players that may standout will not be enough for this team to win or hold other teams from making big plays.

    Our defense pre Aldon was dynamic because they jelled as a group. The 2015 defensive team will be missing many players from that dominating group but could still be surprisingly good as a group, and that is what I’m hoping for when all is said and done.

  15. I think the sum of the parts is more critical than individual excellence.
    That is, how the team functions as a unit. If the OLB cannot get to the QB, the DBs will be exploited. If the D line cannot occupy blockers, the LBs will be making tackles 5 yards down field. If the DBs are slow, the opposing QBs will pick them apart.
    Therefore, I think the better question is -Who is the weak link?

  16. This guy is an idiot and so is his dad!!!!! Reid wasn’t even the best safety last year and to say Aldo won’t be better than last year is just “hating”.

  17. Could anyone list all the other DE’s who consistently got double digit sacks playing next to Justin Smith? You know, since he’s personally responsible for all of Aldon Smith’s sacks?

    1. What many don’t realize was in in the 2012 Patriots game where Justin got hurt, Aldon badly hurt his shoulder as well. The 49ers are secretive about injuries, saying little about the shoulder injury. National media just assumed Justin was responsible for 95% of Aldon’s sacks.

      Aldon (like Justin) is a bludgeon type player. Its all about hand punch, reach and leverage. The bum shoulder really hampered him.

      To be clear, its a big advantage to have Justin right next to you. The TE stunts were works of art.

      But while one door closes, another opens. Dockett or Carradine hitting the gaps will open things up. If Aldon is healthy and his heads on straight there’s no reason he can’t be dominant.

          1. The end of that time frame is also when Cowboy started to decline Brodie.
            I can see Grant’s point of view here. Aldon hasn’t had the same success when Cowboy isn’t starting. And now that Smith is retired…

            1. Cowboy retires and is replaced by Tank. I think Aldon will finish the season with 20 sacks….

              1. I think it will be closer to the 10-15 range for Aldon given the expected rotation that is expected to occur this season.

        1. This is great. Blanket statement with zero facts or analysis to back up or explain anything.

          Let me guess, you saw the 2.5 sacks on stat line and bypassed on any and all critical thinking?

          Let’s ignore the fact that he missed the first 9 games, never got in a groove, and didn’t have as many pass rushing opportunities as in the past because the 49ers were not playing with late game leads very often.

          Or that a tumultuous off-season with too many distractions kept him from focusing solely on football.

          In his first game back alone, he had 8 pressures. If you think that isn’t a factor, you don’t even have a basic understanding of football.

          I’m very disappointed that this is what Bay Area sports fans and 49er fans get as their “insider opinion and analysis”.

          1. In 426 snaps last season, 25-year old Aldon Smith earned a PFF pass-rush grade of plus-0.5.

            In 521 snaps last season, 21-year old Aaron Lynch earned a PFF pass-rush grade of plus-5.6.

        2. Grant,

          Yes, I’m sure he was completely healthy during his suspension. It’s a wonder he wasn’t more productive during those nine games. It’s a real concern.

          WTF are you talking about? You can’t see how a player suspended for nine games might not be in the flow for the remainder of the season? Yes, it was disappointing that he didn’t do more, but to expect him to repeat that level of play, unless you’re expecting him to be injured or suspended, borders on ridiculous.

  18. Aldon Smith will probably be the team’s most impactful player on D. But the strength of the team will be the DL. Everything will run off how well they play.

    1. If the starters are Williams, Dorsey and Dial… that’s three D-linemen who all played nose tackle, and will all have an well developed understanding of leverage.

      If over a single gap, Dorsey can disrupt backfields. Dial has the length to compress the pocket.

      Don’t be surprised if Aldon has a feast this season.

    2. He may not even be their most impactful outside linebacker. He wasn’t last season.

      1. How do you think Mangini will do this year? It’s clear the strength of this team is still the defense. The talent is there even with the departures.
        I’m more concerned about the scheme.

          1. Meaning his blitz now scheme won’t be effective with the talent at OLB and dline?

            1. Also, why didn’t Tomsula hire Tarver as his DC? Or is he the fall back plan in case Mangini is a disaster?

      2. As mentioned by others, he was the guys teams set out to stop, and while he didn’t rack up many sacks he did create some pressure (although again not at his usual level). And missing the first half of the season, and also not being allowed to work out with the team during that period, wouldn’t have helped.

          1. You could say that about most of the team and the coaches last season. Given the environment it’s not that it’s surprising

        1. Missing 9 weeks and then coming into an egg shell lockeroom will do that. I expect a 10 plus sack season!

      3. He missed 9 games last year…. and you are surprised his play dropped off when he came back?

        There is no reason to think his numbers won’t be dramatically better after finishing the season and going through the off season trouble free and doing everything right. To just say… he won’t be anything special suddenly is just trolling for a response.

      4. He(Aldon) sat nine games my man(grant)……do you watch football…..or just sports center?

  19. Who will be the best defender? The player who commands a double team, because he will make everyone else’s job easier.

  20. Scooter, as usual, makes one of the better observations. If the DL plays well, good things will happen. If they get pressure, the DBs will look terrific.
    Hard to choose just one guy. Could be Bowman, could be Aldon. The thing about Aldon losing Cowboy is that Cowboy wasn’t the same monster last year that he’d been previously. Its also necessary to have more than one threat in the pass rush. An offense can block one guy. If Lynch gets healthy and Brooks is motivated, they’ll help Aldon’s production. Some pressure up the middle is required too against guys like Brees, PM, Brady.
    I was pleased with the Harold pick and encouraged by ota reports, but the best defensive player? That seems premature.

    1. Are you and Scooter saying that defensive football is a team game? That’s amazing. I wonder if the same idea might apply to offense? Count me in.

      1. Lol!

        That is part of what I meant, but also that the performance of the D, good or bad, starts up front (and yes you can say the same on offense). As Brotha said, if the DL plays well, then good things will happen for the rest of the D. And I think the DL is going to be pretty strong this year despite the losses of Justin Smith and McDonald.

        The OL is a bit more murky though… that is my biggest concern regarding how the offense will perform.

  21. Matt Barrows Position Ranking Update – 1 OLB, 2 Safety, 3 Defensive Line. 4 Running Back. 5. Receiver.

    My 5 pick yesterday was also receiver.

    So far I see it the same as Barrows, except I think D-line’s a little better than the safety group. Safety has the starter experience, but D-line has the established depth.

    I’m going TE at 6. I was tempted to go Corner.

    Anyone want to take a stab at number 6?

    1. I’m expecting position rankings to change as the season moves along. Corner was a worry at the start of last season, but turned out to be a strength. They could surprise us again.

    2. I’ve said before that I think Baalke is a poor judge of WR talent and drafting. Prior to this offseason he drafted AJ Jenkins and WAS RESPONSIBLE for as Matt Barrows puts it:

      “To say the 49ers had duplicates at wide receiver last season would be inaccurate. They had triplicates. In Anquan Boldin, Michael Crabtree and Stevie Johnson, the team had three bigger-body receivers who were very good in the short and intermediate passing game but who didn’t scare defensive coordinators when it came to the deep ball.”

      However, it looks like with this year’s draft and free agency he has at least learned what pieces need to be put together. Now the question is: how will these pieces gel with the team and esp. CK?

      1. Cubus,

        Your expanding on Barrow’s point regarding the duplication of skills at WR is absolutely on point, but one first round pick that went wrong isn’t enough of a sample size for me to agree that Baalke has proven he can’t draft WR’s. What will happen to that theory if two (or all three) of Ellington, Patton and Smelter become useful WR’s?

        1. Rightly or wrongly, I’m more forgiving of later round picks. In the past I was a firm believer that 1st round picks should be capable of starting their rookie year. However, counter arguments proposed by Scooter and others have caused me to soften my stance on that somewhat. Further, my earlier attitude was probably born from the days when first round picks were paid extremely high salaries for rookies. Now in the rookie salary cap era, it becomes less of an issue from a financial perspective to let 1st rounders sit the first season.

          Baalke botched on AJ and then, IMO, was afraid to take a WR in the first round. However, it looks better this draft and offseason. After all, as Barrows points out, Baalke gave TS a huge contract, relative to Baalke’s standards.

          I’m really looking forward to the WR camp battle. I think it’s the most exciting battle in several years, if not longer. Hopefully, Grant will really be on top of it and provide detailed, insightful yet candid writeups (hint, hint).

      2. Crabtree did help the Niners get to 2 NFCCGs, and was considered the number 1 WR. However, he did suffer that achilles and still kept his spot even though he lost a step.I could see how Baalke thought that MC would suffice, but last year he got exposed and he developed a case of the dropsies.
        Torrey Smith is a big upgrade, and will be a true number 1.
        Fans who pan Baalke’s acumen in selecting a WR should look at the the other GM’s and their success rate. For every success, there are at least 2 busts.Even if the rookie is talented, they tend to get injured because they have not bulked up to be able to take the hits.
        It is better to get a quality FA who has a proven track record and a history of durability. Like Baalke did with TS.

    3. You nailed it Brodie. I can’t argue WR being ahead of TE which is what I guessed it would be.

      1. I spaced QB as a position group. Didn’t even consider the position. Oh how things have changed (at least in my own head) since the days of Montata+Young.

        1. B2W,

          Montana/Yound – Kaepernick/Gabbert. Kaepernick/Gabbert – Montana/Yound. Hmmm, that’s tough. It’s just too close to call, at least for me…

  22. Aldon (13 sacks)
    Bowman (105 tackles)
    Bethea (5 picks)
    Ian WIlliams (anchor of the D line, and will free up Bowman)
    Lynch (8 sacks)

  23. Steelers RB Le’Veon Bell has suspension reduced from 3 to 2 games.

    A (slight) consolation prize for having to fly 3,000 miles to play a 10:00am game on a 6-day week.

  24. I could see Lynch becoming a stud this year if he bulks up a little. Really hoping Carradine shows why he was so highly touted also. If either of those, and one of these 3: Ward, D. Johnson, or Reaser turn out to be really good, then we could have a total of 6 studs on defense (with Smith, Bowman, Reid and Bethea), and that’s pretty great.

    Doesn’t seem out of the question, does it?

      1. That’s great news. Meaning he is full go next week! (probably just limit his reps and veteran courtesy days off)

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