Pro Football Focus released their list of the best 50 players entering the 2020 season, and three San Francisco 49ers made the list. It’s not surprising that either Richard Sherman, Nick Bosa, or George Kittle made the list. The only question was where they would land. Surprisingly, Bosa came in as the lowest Niner:
Few players have had the kind of immediate impact at the position that Nick Bosa had as a rookie. He broke the PFF record for total pressures from a rookie that had stood since Aldon Smith’s 60 back in 2011, and Bosa even continued his dominance into the playoffs and the Super Bowl. It’s just one year of play, but considering how good he was in college and the fact that his one season in the NFL was a record-breaking one, there is reason to believe that he is already one of the best pass-rushers in the game — and that he could get even better.
The edge rushers ahead of Bosa were Myles Garrett (29th), T.J. Watt (28th), Von Miller (25th), Cameron Jordan (21st), and J.J. Watt at No. 13 overall. Watt isn’t as good as Bosa, and I’m not sure it’s close. I’d take him over Watt, honestly, especially if we’re projecting toward the future.
Next up, Sherman:
Only age keeps Richard Sherman this low — the best cornerback of the past decade will enter this season at 32 years old, coming off one of the best seasons of his career. Sherman was a huge reason the 49ers were so successful last season and showed that he could get back to his best play another year removed from his Achilles injury. He allowed a passer rating of just 45.3 when targeted, including the playoffs, and that was the first season of his career since 2014, where that figure dropped below 50.0. Sherman has always been criticized for being just a zone corner, but he has been so much more than that — and even if he wasn’t, he has been so good at it that it’s not a valid criticism.
The zone versus man argument is a silly one. Even if Cover-3, which the 49ers no longer predominantly run, you end up having man responsibilities by the time the quarterback has reached the top of his drop. Sherman was the second-highest cornerback on the list, only trailing Stephon Gilmore. Can Sherm make another All-Pro team in 2020?
Over the past decade, five of the top seven single-season PFF grades at tight end belong to Rob Gronkowski, but the grade George Kittle racked up last season tops any of them. Kittle, like Gronk, is an elite receiver at the position while also a rare blocker who becomes a matchup problem because he can dominate smaller players in that facet just as easily as he can win in the passing game. Last season was his first truly dominant year, but it was so good that it’s tough not to rank him this highly based on what the future could hold.
The fifth-best player in the NFL. Whew. Calling last year Kittle’s first dominant season after he had 1,3777 receiving the season prior is one heck of a take. I do agree that Kittle was a better football player in 2019. Much better, really. I felt like Kittle went from reliable in all facets to dominant. So while fifth overall comes off as high, he’s truly one of the best players in the NFL.