Hey all, I just wanted to post an absurdly early look at which 49ers players might deserve to make the Pro Bowl this year. This isn't a question of whether they actually will, because it all comes down to popularity in the end. But who on our team might deserve it? Read and then discuss in the comments.
1. Vernon Davis
This is a kind of a no-brainer. Vernon Davis is the best blocking tight-end in the league and is a huge weapon when going out to catch. My only question is whether his relatively quiet year so far will take away from his chances?
2. Mike Iuapati
Iupati is a flat-out beast and hands down our best offensive lineman. I'd argue that he is one of the best left guards in the whole NFL, and I think he will start to prove it as our offensive line gets better and better throughout the year. His big disadvantage is that his name doesn't come up very often. He quietly does a great job and doesn't get penalized or make big mistakes. He could be a lot like Justin Smith in this regard. Plays at a Pro Bowl level but doesn't get mentioned enough.
3. Justin Smith
Speaking of Justin Smith, he is having a heck of a year. I'd argue that our D-Line is the best in the entire NFL. The only line that comes close is Detroit, and our D-Line clearly outplayed theirs last week. Justin Smith is our best D-Lineman and thus is most likely to nab a Pro-Bowl spot. He is also finally starting to gain the respect he deserves around the league and by the media. I could see McDonald coming on strong though and possibly making it as an alternate.
4. Aldon Smith
I'm probably going to get some flak for this one, but Aldon Smith is currently the best pass-rusher in the entire rookie draft class. He is getting good recognition by the public as demonstrated by his winning the Pepsi rookie of the week award the past two weeks in a row. If he keeps playing this way, he could end up with as many as 12-14 sacks. Also take into account, we still play Arizona and St. Louis TWICE EACH! He could really go to town there. With their teams playing the way they are, he could easily get two sacks in each of those games. My math skills may not be the best, but if he were to get two sacks in each of those 4 games, that's another 8 sacks to go with his current 5.5. His final stats at the end of the year could be downright scary. Even though Pro Bowl teams don't use the 3-4 (I think), he could still be a dominant enough pass-rusher to make it as a D-Lineman.
5. Frank Gore
This is one guy I don't think will make it. I could certainly see him having another 1200+ yard season (again, especially with those division games coming up), but there are just a lot of other good running backs this year. It'll be interesting to see what happens.
6. Alex Smith
No, this is not a joke. I actually do think it's possible that Alex Smith could make the Pro Bowl, at least as a backup. He's currently playing at a level with the top QBs in the league. He isn't chucking it around the yard like Rogers or Brady, but that may not matter. If the Niners make the playoffs with a 12-4, 13-3 record (as is certainly possible at this point), and Alex Smith continues to play solid like this, he might get some credit for it. Throws like the game-winner to Delanie Walker will only help his cause. Again, this is one that could get interesting.
Carlos Rogers is playing some darn good football right now. Remember too, a lot of the "big names" are rotting away in Philly. If Rogers can make some highlight reels with a game-winning interception or something, he might be able to sneak in.
This is another one of those no-brainer picks. He's been the best ILB in the league and made the Pro Bowl every year he's been in the league and he isn't slowing down. He's pretty much a lock if he keeps things up.
9. Navorro Bowman
As good as Willis has been, and as scary as it is for me to say this, Bowman might actually be outplaying Willis at this point. He's playing out of his mind and absolutely deserves a Pro Bowl spot at this point.
10. David Akers
Akers has not lost his touch or his leg strength. He's playing as good as he ever has. There are some other kickers playing really well, but Akers' case might be helped by the Niners finishing the season as one of the best teams in the NFL. (Some clutch kicks on national TV on Thanksgiving might help too!)
11. Andy Lee
As good as Andy Lee has been in the past, he might be outdoing himself this year. He kicks the ball insanely far and does a good job placing it. Our special teams is also doing a great job on punt coverage, and that should help his case.
Here's the way I envision this all playing out. The 49ers finish the season at 12-4, 13-3 and get a bunch of players selected for the Pro Bowl, but all of those players are unable to play in the Pro Bowl because the 49ers go to the Super Bowl. Not even joking here. We've proven we can beat any team in the league. We should have beat the Cowboys, we beat the Eagles, we dominated the same Tampa Bay team (48-3!) that went out the next week and beat the Saints, and we man-handled arguably the best defensive line in football and locked the best WR in football out of the end zone in beating the undefeated Lions. We missed a lot of time in Pre-Season, and are thus improving every week as guys get better chemistry, better confidence, and a better understanding of what they need to do. Our hardest 3 games left are against the Giants, Ravens, and Steelers. Those are 3 teams that I absolutely think we can beat. Our Strengths and Weaknesses match up very favorably against theirs. Anyway, discuss the possible Pro Bowl selections in the comments!