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Yesterday afternoon Major League Baseball announced rosters for the 2010 All Star Game, to be hosted down in Anaheim. The Bay Area is represented by Tim Lincecum and Brian Wilson of the Giants, and Trevor Cahill of the A's. Big congratulations are certainly in order for those guys.
In the meantime, I thought that since we're in the midst of projecting rosters, why not take a look ahead to the 2011 Pro Bowl. There is a whole season of football to be played, but that doesn't mean we can't project who will have big seasons. The 49ers have a whole host of talented players that will be looking to make the Pro Bowl. Last year, the 49ers sent TE Vernon Davis, Patrick Willis and Andy Lee as starters, and then Frank Gore and Justin Smith as injury replacements.
Who could the 49ers send this season? We break down some of the options after the jump.
Patrick Willis and Vernon Davis are clearly two of the obvious choices heading into the 2010 season. Willis could very well be a Pro Bowler until he retires, or at least for most of the coming decade. He's dominating at the inside linebacker position, and I see no reason for him to lose his iron grip on a starting position.
Vernon Davis finally brought it all together in 2009 and will be looking to build on that in 2010. He might lose some looks to Michael Crabtree, but I'd imagine he'll find a way to put up some filthy numbers once again. He'll face tough competition from the likes of Jason Witten and Tony Gonzalez, among others, but Davis is as talented as any TE in the NFL.
Andy Lee was also a starter, and I'd like to think he'll be back in 2010 for another strong year. At the same time, I'd like to hope that a strong year from the 49ers would lessen the chances Andy Lee makes the Pro Bowl. However, even with a strong performance by the rest of the 49ers, I'd imagine Andy Lee will continue to excel punting for the team. Even if his total number of punts goes down (we hope), he can still nail that net average.
Frank Gore made the team as an injury replacement in 2009, and with the improvement of the offensive line, I'd like to think it should only improve his chances in 2010. He put together a strong 2009 averaging 4.9 yards per carry, and if he can stay healthy, he could put up some strong numbers.
Michael Crabtree will be getting his first full season of action, and given how strong his performance was in 2009, what's to stop him from stepping up even further in 2010? Of course, when you've got guys like Larry Fitzgerald, Roddy White and DeSean Jackson, among others, wide receiver remains a tough position in which to break through.
The big question is whether Alex Smith could put together a Pro Bowl type of performance. I'm certainly not holding my breath, but crazier things have certainly happened.
On defense, Justin Smith will certainly be looking to break through again. The problem for Smith is that he plays a position (3-4 DE) that requires a lot of grunt work that doesn't get recognized by the fans. I think we as 49ers fans will definitely have to step up in the voting process for Smith.
Two other 49ers defensive players could very well work their way into consideration: Dashon Goldson and Shawntae Spencer. Goldson is entering his second full year starting at free safety and has proven to be a playmaker. He led the team with four sacks, was second in tackles, and even managed a couple sacks. If he can add a few more interceptions, he very well could be a reserve on the NFC Pro Bowl team.
Shawntae Spencer is a guy who, like Justin Smith, quietly goes about his work. He quietly emerged as a starter last season and while he only had two interceptions, he put together some excellent work at the cornerback position. He'll need more of the flashy stats to make the Pro Bowl, but I could certainly see him as an injury replacement.
If the 49ers can turn into the playoff squad many of us think is so close to developing, it will be because certain members of the team step up and emerge as top performers in the league. Who could some of those players be?
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