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Where 49ers pending free agents rank on SI’s ‘difference makers’ list

And where other players rank at positions of need, of course.

It’s no secret that the top San Francisco 49ers free agents are running back Carlos Hyde, safety Eric Reid, defensive end Tank Carradine and center Daniel Kilgore, in approximately that order. A dozen publications are posting lists of free agents and possible good fits, and until free agency actually begins, we’re going to keep looking at those lists.

The latest is one from Andy Benoit of, and the hook here is that he is listing “difference makers” at each position, as well as thoughts on other players who aren’t necessarily in that top tier.

In my opinion, Hyde belongs in the “difference makers” category. And that’s where Benoit places Hyde. He places him below Le’Veon Bell, and above Isaiah Crowell — the three of them are the only listed difference makers at the position.

At wide receiver, Jarvis Landry, Sammy Watkins, Allen Robinson and John Brown are all listed as difference-makers, and I’ve seen 49ers fans interested in all of them, especially Robinson. Our old pal Vance McDonald is listed as a potential cap casualty at tight end.

At guard, a huge need for the 49ers, Andrew Norwell of the Carolina Panthers is the only listed “difference maker,” though Benoit calls his first-team All-Pro status “befuddling,” which is quite silly, I think. Zane Beadles is listed as a cap casualty and, well, we don’t need to go into that, do we?

Daniel Kilgore, despite being mostly solid for much of last season, isn’t listed among the centers at all. Neither Carradine nor Aaron Lynch are listed among the difference makers or even significant defensive linemen. NaVorro Bowman is listed under linebackers, but I imagine the Raiders will re-sign him. Here, they list Ray-Ray Armstrong as a potential cap casualty.

The biggest need for the 49ers is cornerback, and Benoit lists Trumaine Johnson of the Los Angeles Rams and Malcolm Butler of the New England Patriots as the difference-makers. Dontae Johnson is listed as significant, and Benoit suggests he should take a one-year “prove it” deal in hopes of bouncing back.

Reid is listed as the top difference maker at safety, and Benoit notes that teams “would be foolish to pass on him because of the anthem protests.” I feel the same way about the 49ers.