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49ers Current MVP: Obvious or a little more subtle?

Recently we've been bombaring the site with draft information, left and right. The draft is important and is fast approaching, but obviously it's be nice to mix it up on occasion. So, I thought of this post last night and figured I'd throw it up for a little discussion.

Who is the most valuable player to this team? This could be seen as a 2-part question. Who was most valuable last season (and thus will likely be valuable heading into 2009) and who needs to be most valuable for this team to succeed next year. We'll stick with the first question for now.

In 2006, I think it's safe to say Frank Gore was clearly that guy. That team over-achieved to reach 7-9 and Gore broke 49ers records all along the way. He's struggled since then and while he is still important, he's definitely not been the most valuable man on the roster.

The easy answer would probably be Patrick Willis. Bamm Bamm has been an absolute monster as a linebacker and is playing like the best player on the team. He's had to make more plays than linebackers on above average teams simply because of the lack of depth around him.

However, I think there are several other options besides Willis worth considering. When healthy, Eric Heitmann has proven to me that he is one of the better centers in the league. The drawback has been inconsistent line play overall, but I don't know if I'd hold that against him. The line had big problems in 2007, due in part to his recovery from major injury. He rebounded in a big way last year, and with the addition of a potentially healthy Marvel Smith, this could be a breakout year for the line.

Could we make an argument for Justin Smith? His numbers don't fill up the stat sheet but he was all over the field. And once Coach Singletary took over and Smith was able to settle in to one position he was a beast. The defensive line didn't force a ton of pressure in the 3-4/4-3 hybrid, but when it did, Smith was usually an integral part.

One could argue for special teams options. Andy Lee is always steady and reliable, although his value potentially goes down as the offense improves. Allen Rossum was a monster on returns when healthy. Of course, part of being the MVP is being on the field consistently.

And of course there's always the QB. Shaun Hill finished the season as the starter and if you think he's going to nail down the starting job going forward, maybe he's your guy. However, I think he'd be more likely to be an answer to the question of who needs to be the most valuable for the team to succeed in 2009.

I've only scratched the surface, so I'm curious who you view as the 49ers MVP at this point in time? If you think Willis is the run-away winner (as is very possible), maybe include a runner-up option as well. Right now I'd lean towards Heitmann and Smith as the two strongest candidates alongside Bamm Bamm.