NaVorro Bowman was the first member of the San Francisco 49ers to crack PFF’s top 101 players of the decade. Bowman came it at No. 57. The 2007 first-round draft picks of the Niners were the next two players to represent San Francisco. Joe Staley was 27th on the list, while Patrick Willis was 28th. Here is PFF’s blurb on the Hall of Famer to be left tackle:
27. T JOE STALEY
One of the most consistent tackles in the game over an extended period of time, Joe Staley is set to retire as one of the very best players of the decade. Staley’s 93.1 run-blocking grade since 2010 is the highest of any tackle, and only Joe Thomas and Jason Peters earned higher PFF grades overall. Staley missed out on a Super Bowl ring, but in the two Super Bowls he featured in, he didn’t surrender a single pressure despite going up against some top-level competition.
When Staley missed time, it was because he had a significant injury. His consistency and durability were Staley’s most impressive traits on the field. You see it all the time when a veteran player is on a team with a losing record, and the veteran will go on injured reserve late in the season. Staley played through so many injuries, and you could never tell by his play on the field.
Here is PFF’s blurb on Willis:
28. LB PATRICK WILLIS
Patrick Willis is a classic example of a player whose NFL career crossed two decades yet was still more than dominant enough to be ranked among the best in the league, despite the fairly small sample size. Walking away from the game relatively early doesn’t help that sample size problem, but Willis, at his best, was the best linebacker in football. He began his career with seven consecutive PFF grades above 86.0. For the first four years of the decade, he didn’t earn a grade lower than 88.7, and he broke the 90.0 barrier twice in that span.
Here is a question: Where didn’t Willis excel? He could cover, hit, tackle, run, outsmart you, and be a leader. Willis was also durable, especially considering his style of play.