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Matt Williamson's NFC West Player Rankings: Three 49ers in Top Five

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Most of us have become familiar with Scouts, Inc. writer and former scout Matt Williamson over the past year or two.  Mike Sando routinely referenced Williamson in his coverage of players within the NFC West as well as potential free agents, draft prospects, etc.

Williamson regularly writes his own content for ESPN nowadays and this morning he released his player rankings for our beloved division.  Among the top five players listed, the 49ers have three guys: Patrick Willis, Justin Smith, and Vernon Davis.

It backs up what the talking-heads have been saying for years: San Francisco has a talented team that just needs some guidance and pieces to get over the hump.  Of course, we all knew that...but it's nice to see the rest of the world brought up to speed on what we've been saying all along.

Make the jump to see where the 49ers ranked in the top 15.

  1. Patrick Willis
  2. Justin Smith
  3. Vernon Davis
  4. Aubrayo Franklin
  5. Mike Iupati
  6. Frank Gore

First of all, having your 5-technique (3-4 Defensive End) and your Mike linebacker ranked two and three in the division, amongst all players on both sides of the ball, makes an excellent foundation for the defense.  We've known how special Justin Smith was, but now the rest of the NFL (fans, mostly) get's some validation via Smith's pro-bowl appearance in 2010 as well as his inclusion on this list at such a high ranking.

I don't even have to say anything about Patrick Willis...the world has finally decided to agree that he's surpassed Ray Lewis as the NFL's best linebacker, and we saw that coming.  Willis could easily be number one on this list, too.

Vernon Davis is a nice surprise at the number three spot here.  While many still put Antonio Gates above Davis as NFL's best TE, Davis is only getting better at his young age.  Add to that the fact that he'll be playing under an offensive coach for the first time in his NFL career and we should only see his stock rise further.

For the complete list (broken into three parts):

Nos. 1-5

Nos. 6-10

Nos. 11-15