The San Francisco 49ers are in the midst of an organizational overhaul that will see a host of new players in the starting lineup this fall. The team was busy in free agency, the draft, and via trades. There are some returning veteran leaders, but a whole lot of new players that could make a name for themselves quickly.
Recently, SI put together a list of the ten most important non-quarterbacks on each roster. Five writers voted on their top ten, and you can check out the 49ers list here.
NaVorro Bowman leads the way with 44 points, getting two first place votes. Joe Staley, DeForest Buckner, and Carlos Hyde each got a first place vote, and Staley finished in the top three in all five ballots. Emily Kaplan voted Buckner No. 1 on her list, and offered this defense.
The 49ers are rebuilding, and that means they need young talent to construct the roster around. Buckner may have been drafted by the previous regime, but if he breaks out in 2017 (as many predict he will) the defensive lineman will set the tone for the Lynch-Shanahan era.
It’s a tough call ranking out the ten most important non-quarterbacks in part because it depends on how you look at importance. Bowman is critical to the 2017 defense, but from a long-term perspective, he might not be as big an impact player. Of course, the work he potentially puts in with Reuben Foster certainly adds some importance.
I would have bumped Jimmie Ward up higher on this list. If the 49ers are going to take a big step forward in 2017, Ward would likely be a key part of that. He and Arik Armstead strike me as two guys that will be critical to this defense taking a big step forward.
The list includes four offensive players in Joe Staley, Carlos Hyde, Pierre Garçon, and Jeremy Zuttah. Given Kyle Shanahan’s work with Alex Mack in Cleveland and Atlanta, Zuttah could prove to be a critical cog in the short term. Kyle Juszczyk was the highest player receiving votes not to end up in the top ten. In some ways, I would argue Juszczyk is more important than Pierre Garçon. The 49ers need their wide receivers stepping up, but the 49ers “offensive weapon” could get enough work in enough areas to be critically important to the offense keeping its head above water this season.
Who would you rank as your ten most important players on the 49ers roster?