As the season approaches, you’ll find several “Top 100” lists. Doug Farrar of USA TODAY complied 14 different lists of the top players at evey position to figure out who is the most valuable and put together a list of his own. I know this list is legit because San Francisco 49ers left tackle Joe Staley is on here. Here’s Farrar’s blurb on Staley:
In June, the 49ers signed Staley to a two-year contract extension that will keep him on the roster through the 2021 season. Staley will be 37 at that point, but there’s no reason to doubt his ability to play well through that new contract. San Francisco’s first-round pick in 2007, Staley has developed from a raw prospect out of Central Michigan into one of the most reliable tackles in the league, especially in the pass-blocking department. He hasn’t allowed more than four sacks in a season in five of the last six years, and in 2018, he gave up four sacks, seven quarterback hits and 14 quarterback hurries.
Staley comes out of his stance quickly and with a straight-back backpedal that allows him to handle pass rushers from either side. When he engages, he can extend his arms to keep defenders out of the pocket, run them out of the arc or seamlessly handle an end-tackle stunt. Whether Jimmy Garoppolo, C.J. Beathard or Nick Mullens, Staley was able to keep his quarterback upright no matter who he was.
One thing I hope 49er fans don’t take for granted his Staley’s consistent level of greatness. He makes it look a lot easier than it should. Plenty of talented veterans check out midway through the season when their teams aren’t competitive. Not Joe. Not ever.
Staley was in the 90s on the list. The next 49er can be found at No. 57:
Kittle set the NFL’s single-season record for receiving yardage for a tight end at 1,377 in just his second NFL season, and it was a big stretch over the 515 he had in 2017. There’s no reason to believe he won’t keep the numbers up in a Kyle Shanahan offense that has always benefited tight ends to an extreme degree.
As the stats show, Kittle didn’t get a lot of deep throws — he caught just three passes of 20 or more air yards on 12 targets for 145 yards and one touchdown, but it’s easy to imagine Kittle getting a lot more opportunities if Jimmy Garoppolo is playing a full season.
An outstanding route runner, Kittle fits perfectly in a Shanahan system that asks its tight ends run everything from Texas routes to Y-Throwbacks. He also has the speed off the line and second-level acceleration to beat safeties and linebackers, which adds to the inherent advantage he derives from pre-snap motion. Yes, Kittle is in the perfect system for his skill set, but he also gives his coaches a level of performance they’d be hard-pressed to find from any other player at his position.
Farrar had a tweet about Kittle’s long play against Denver last year saying how he benefits from Shanahan’s system. I say Kittle benefitted from being faster than the players that were guarding him. Talk about making it look easy.
Okay, so maybe the list isn’t as legit as I thought, because I can’t imagine a world where Deforest Buckner isn’t one of the 100 most valuable players in football. I get why you leave Jimmy G off. He has to prove it. Dee Ford, though? Hmm.