The folks at Scouts Inc. over at the world wide leader released their Top 200 player rankings for 2011 and our San Francisco 49ers have six players on the list. It's Insider-protected so I'll provide a quick rundown of the 49ers included:
To give you an idea of context for the 49ers, the top five players were Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Darrelle Revis, Adrian Peterson and Aaron Rodgers. Willis was the second highest rated defensive player after Revis and Smith was 12th among defensive players.
Vernon Davis was ranked seventh among tight ends. They had Owen Daniels ahead of Davis but I'm not sure I'd have Daniels that high while still making sure he's 100% recovered from his 2009 injury. The top two tight ends were Antonio Gates (#28) and Jason Witten (#29). I'm a bit surprised by the disparity between the top two and the rest, but I'd imagine consistent production over many years gives the significant edge to some of the tight ends ahead of Davis.
Given the question marks surrounding much of the rest of the team, it's not entirely shocking nobody else is on the list. There are guys I could see moving onto the list in the future, but for now, anybody not on the list is likely a justified omission.
Mel Kiper went through this year's rookie class to consider players of the future who might make the list. None of the 49ers rookies are included, but I'd argue if the training camp hype pans out, Aldon Smith could quickly join this list, even if he is playing primarily in a pass rusher role in 2011. We've heard nothing but positive remarks about the rookie outside linebacker and he is seemingly being put in a position to succeed. While he is finding success in camp, the team is not forcing him into a starting role hoping he can learn pass coverage and other skills on the fly. Rather, he seems to be starting in a pass rushing role and developing from there.
Beyond Smith, the 49ers have some rookies that could develop into prominent roles, but it's hard to see how far they develop this season and beyond. I'd argue Chris Culliver and Kendall Hunter are the two most likely after Smith to make their way onto this list, with Kaepernick further down the road due to a bigger mix of upside and downside.