ESPN’s Bill Barnwell released his 2021 NFL All-Pro Team on Thursday, selecting the best players at each position this season. The 49ers were well represented on the list, with left tackle Trent Williams and wide receiver Deebo Samuel each earning a first-team selection, while edge rusher Nick Bosa made Barnwell’s second-team. Colts defensive tackle, and former 49ers interior defensive lineman, DeForest Buckner was also on the first-team.
Samuel was Barnwell’s top choice at the “hybrid weapon” position, a designation Barnwell decided to make in place of a second running back or fullback. Samuel, of course, is in the middle of a career year. The third-year wideout has hauled in 70 receptions for 1,247 receiving yards and 5 receiving touchdowns alongside 44 carries for 301 rushing yards and 7 rushing touchdowns.
Barnwell called Williams one of three “no-questions asked pick on the offensive side of the ball.” Williams has been unbelievable this season on the left side of the 49ers offensive line, and is playing like he’s still in his prime at 33-years old. According to ESPN’s tracking data, he has not allowed a single sack this season. Somehow Williams has never been a first-team All-Pro before, but that should change this year.
Barnwell gave the first-team edge rusher nods to Myles Garrett and T.J. Watt. He cites ESPN’s sacks created and pass rush win rate metrics as two areas where Garrett and Watt have separated themselves from the pack. He chose Bosa alongside Bengals edge Trey Hendrickson for the second team but described several viable candidates. Still, he had plenty of praise for Bosa:
Nick Bosa ranks fourth in sacks and second in knockdowns, and he leads the league with 19 tackles for loss. He’s dominating on a team where nobody else has more than five sacks or 10 knockdowns and the secondary is hanging on for dear life every week.
49ers tight end George Kittle was snubbed on the list for Ravens tight end Mark Andrews and Kansas City’s Travis Kelce, but the decision is understandable with quick look at their numbers. Kittle has 65 receptions for 871 receiving yards and a career-high 6 touchdowns, but Andrews and Kelce have both eclipsed 80 receptions, 1,000 yards, and 8 touchdowns.
Barnwell’s list is another reminder that despite the 49ers 8-7 record, they have plenty of premium talent. The Cowboys were the only team with more first-team players than the 49ers on Barnwell’s list and San Francisco was one of the few teams with at least three players on both teams. A lot has gone wrong this season, but the Niners still have too much talent to be written off. We’ll see if they can put it all together in time for a postseason run.