NFL Network continued their countdown of the "Top 100" players in the NFL on Thursday evening, and it was loaded with 49ers. Frank Gore was ranked 32, NaVorro Bowman was ranked 37 and Vernon Davis was ranked 38. They joined Joe Staley, who was No. 78, and Colin Kaepernick, who was No. 81. New 49ers wide receiver Anquan Boldin was ranked No. 93, and former 49ers safety Dashon Goldson was ranked No. 96.
The list is based on a player vote, and is entirely subjective, but still an interesting piece of content for analysis. There are 30 players remaining, and it will be interesting to see where Patrick Willis, Justin Smith, Michael Crabtree and potentially Aldon Smith appear. Last year, Willis was No. 10, Justin Smith was No. 17 and Crabtree and Aldon Smith were not ranked. I don't know if Aldon will appear given how he tailed off at the end of the season, but it would be absurd at this point if Crabtree did not make an appearance.
Gore dropped from No. 28 last season, but is still getting plenty of respect around the league. He finished tenth in the league in rushing, while Football Outsiders ranked him fourth in DVOA and DYAR. Simply put, DVOA represents value per play, while DYAR looks at total value. Gore benefited from the solid depth the 49ers have built at running back.
I'd recommend checking out the accompanying video for Gore. The best comment was about his patience and vision. There can be a fine line between having patience in the backfield and dancing around looking for holes. Gore finds the smallest of holes and bursts through with ease. One player talked about Gore's low center of gravity and that is 100% accurate. He can squeeze through the tiniest, lowest of holes, which makes his vision that much greater an asset.
The NaVorro Bowman video is worth a look, if only for the opening comment by Jeff Fisher, "He flipped him off! 53 walked back to the huddle and flipped us off!" The most telling comment came from fullback Jerome Felton, who mentioned how it is easy to confuse Bowman and Willis when you see them because they have become so similar. That has happened to me plenty. I'll see a play happen, and before seeing the 3 or the 2 on the back of the jersey I'll confuse one for the other. Bowman was one of the biggest gainers this year, jumping up from No. 85.
Finally, you've got the Vernon Davis video. Richard Sherman is the first opponent to speak, and he discusses the respect he developed for him when he was beaten by Davis's speed. Sherman talked about the 49ers being in a three tight-end set and when he saw Alex Smith cock his arm to throw deep, he was surprised. That's why the 49ers offense can be so dangerous. They can play the deep game even with the heaviest of formations. Vance McDonald will be a big part of continuing that threat, but Vernon Davis remains the key. His strengths as a receiver AND as a blocker keep teams off balance. He is arguably the most dynamic weapon on the 49ers offense, and yet he still can sometimes be underrated. People can easily miss all the double teams he draws. Even though his numbers do not always reflect his skills, they are most definitely there.