The 49ers find their bye week falling halfway through the 2010 NFL season. The team is 2-6 and trying to find any sort of positive rhythm. While I have not yet given up hope on a turnaround, I also know it's entirely possible this season will continue down the wrong path and the 49ers will find themselves battling for a high draft pick. I hope that doesn't happen, but some kind of realism has to creep in at some point.
However, even if the 49ers struggle, they've still got players that are excelling in 2010, with some potential Pro Bowlers mixed in. I wouldn't say they have a ton of opportunities but I wouldn't be surprised to see a couple representatives in Hawaii. Part of that has to do with all the players that drop out, but I also think there are some worthy players on the team. And with the season flying along you need to make sure and get your Pro Bowl votes in as soon as possible. You don't even have to vote for every position. You can vote for one, a few, or all without any trouble. You can vote on the site I just linked, on your mobile phone at nfl.com/probowl/ballot or by texting PRO BOWL to MYNFL (69635).
Of course, my own strategy for voting is to vote for almost entirely all 49ers. Given how many of the top players drop out because of injuries or just not caring about the game, I really have no qualms about voting for as many 49ers as I can. Of course, I know that many folks will disagree with that and look for the actual best players to place on the roster. How do you vote?
If I wasn't basing my vote simply on jersey color, but also factoring high quality of play, the list certainly shrinks considerably. Arguably the easiest selection would be Frank Gore. He's third in the NFC in rushing and is among the leaders in total yards from scrimmage. As Matt Maiocco describes him, Frank Gore has been the 49ers offensive MVP thus far, and likely the overall MVP. He has carried this offense for huge stretches of the season and has continued to be the man for the offense.
Vernon Davis is another guy who is worthy of some consideration. Among tight ends, he's fourth in the NFC in receptions, third in yards, and actually first in touchdowns (4). It's been a fairly quiet season for Davis in part because he's not reaching the end zone at anywhere close to the rate he did last year. If Troy Smith continues as starter it will be interesting to see if he sticks with Michael Crabtree as he did last week, or if he'll develop more of a relationship with Davis.
Dave Baas is a guy who probably won't get a ton of consideration, but I'd think he deserves a little for his role filling in for Eric Heitmann. He's had his issues at times but he's also been quite solid at times. I don't think he makes the Pro Bowl, but there are certainly worse choices. And Crabtree, mentioned above, has put up some decent numbers but nothing comparable to some of the big names. Speaking of numbers, we may very well see Brandon Lloyd in the Pro Bowl and that my friends is a scary proposition.
On defense, Justin Smith once again seems to be worthy of a Pro Bowl nod and has some of the stats to back him up. He led the team in most pressure related defensive categories and has managed to find himself in the thick of things behind the line of scrimmage throughout the season.
And of course Patrick Willis remains a perennial Pro Bowl candidate in spite of seeing his numbers dip this season. He's on pace for a career low 134 tackles even though he remains in the top in the NFL in tackles at this point. His numbers are also down in the various "impact" sort of categories such as forced fumbles and interceptions. It will be interesting to see if Bamm Bamm will start making some of these plays in the second half of the season.
I'll still continue voting for mostly 49ers, but the pickings are relatively slim if you're looking for top of the line performances thus far.