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ESPN’s top 10 players round up: The 49ers were well-represented

Trent Williams, George Kittle, Christian McCaffrey, and Deebo Samuel were all mentioned.

2023 NFL Pro Bowl Games Photo by Michael Owens/Getty Images

Executives and coaches around the league weren’t as friendly to the 49ers’ offense as they were to the defense. Jeremy Fowler of ESPN polled more than 80 voters around the league to rank their top-10 players at each position, with the 49ers finishing with only three players cracking the list at their respective positions: George Kittle, Trent Williams, and Christian McCaffrey.

To nobody’s surprise, Trent Williams was the lone 49er to finish at the top of his position on offense, as he’s been deemed the best tackle in football for a while now. 80 percent of voters had Williams as their top tackle, with his lowest ranking being third, and he was the only tackle to only receive votes in the top three. 2023 will be Williams’ 13th season in the league and his fourth with the 49ers.

Williams has been a revelation for San Francisco, earning back-to-back first-team All-Pro nods as an ideal fit for Kyle Shanahan’s scheme, along with a team-high 92.4% pass block win rate.

Only six left tackles since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970 have earned multiple first-team All-Pros after age 30: Walter Jones, Anthony Munoz, Andrew Whitworth, Joe Thomas, Willie Roaf and Williams.

About 80% of voters still consider him the best.

“He’s an incredibly gifted player,” an NFC exec said. “He has lapses and relies on that talent too much at times. There is some wavering physicality with him. But when he turns it on, nearly impossible to stop.”

Kittle and McCaffrey received high praise, with both voted second in their respective positions. Kittle was behind only Travis Kelce, and McCaffrey was behind only Nick Chubb. After finishing with 13 touchdown receptions from 2019-2021, Kittle set a new career-high with 11 in 2022 after playing at least 15 games for the first time since 2018.

McCaffrey’s 2022 season was enough to move him from the seventh-best running back before last season to the second-best this season. The 49ers acquired the running back last October, where he played 11 games for the Red and Gold, rushing for 746 yards and 464 receiving yards. His 1,880 yards from scrimmage were the most McCaffrey has finished within a season since finishing with 2,392 total yards in 2019, the last time McCaffrey played an entire season before 2022.

With it all said and done, the 49ers looked good in these rankings. Williams, Kittle, and McCaffrey joined Javon Hargrave, Fred Warner, Nick Bosa, Dre Greenlaw, and Talanoa Hufanga as the eight players representing the 49ers, tied with the Eagles for the most in the league. 49ers fans hope the tiebreaker comes in late January with a trip to the Super Bowl on the line once again.

Deebo Samuel was an honorable mention for wide receivers:

Deebo Samuel, San Francisco 49ers: Samuel remains one of the tougher evaluations on the list because many teams classify him as a weapon more than as a pure receiver. But he’s an excellent football player, regardless of position. “He’s the guy you game-plan against when you play San Fran. It’s not George Kittle, it’s Deebo,” an AFC executive said. “He can take over the game with his big-play ability, his RAC and physicality.”

Samuel publicly conceded that he had a down year, with 632 receiving yards and two receiving touchdowns in 13 games. But since TruMedia started tracing yards after catch and yards after first contact per reception, he ranks first among all qualified wide receivers. And he has six career games with 50 receiving yards and a rushing touchdown, twice as many as any other wide receiver during that span (Hill is second with three).

Next year it’d be cool to see both Deebo and Brandon Aiyuk on the list.