We are midway through the NFL season, as the San Francisco 49ers enter Week 10 at 6-2. The team has been playing very good football up to this point, with a lot of great individual performances. With Pro Bowl voting officially open, it'll be interesting to see which 49ers players are earning league-wide recognition.
San Francisco sent 8 players to Hawaii last year, leading the NFC and tying the New England Patriots for a league high. And even though it was a tremendous feat, one could argue that it wasn't enough.
In my opinion, several Niners were robbed of Pro Bowl honors last season - NaVorro Bowman, Aldon Smith and Bruce Miller to name a few. But one of the biggest whiffs by voters might have been on left guard Mike Iupati.
Of the 49ers players sent to the Pro Bowl, Joe Staley was the lone offensive lineman representing the red and gold. But there are many that would argue that Iupati is San Francisco's best offensive lineman.
While Iupati - and nine others - earned the right to be a Pro Bowl alternate, it was not the type of recognition he is deserving of.
Iupati is that prototypical mauling left guard who brings a vast amount of physicality. He is an extremely mobile yet physically dominating lineman. San Francisco invested a first round pick in him, so his emergence is not terribly shocking.
But his brand of football is perfectly aligned with the team's overall identity. Moreover, Iupati is an essential component to San Francisco's No. 1 ranked rushing offense.
With sound technique, Iupati is so tough and to-the-point in his assignments. His is a no-nonsense approach, as he often looks like he's trying to win the ball game on his own. No. 77 is such a thorough player, as someone follows through on each play and generally finishes very well.
Iupati might be the strongest link in the chain that is the 49ers offensive line.
Fans of the game love how dominant he is at the point of attack, blowing defenders off the ball. Iupati plays well within the 49ers blocking scheme, and consistently gets to the second level. On any given play, Iupati can be responsible for neutralizing multiple players.
In a lot of ways, he is Justin Smith on offense.
So we can conclude that Iupati is certainly qualified, but we still have to wonder, is the league-wide recognition there yet?
I'd like to believe that Iupati has earned the respect of his peers and NFL followers - even non-49ers fans. The 2012-13 season could be the beginning to Mike Iupati's reign as a perennial Pro Bowler in this league, alongside a number of his teammates.