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Three 49ers Named as NFL's 50 Best Players Entering the 2020 Season


Pro Football Focus released their list of the NFL's 50 Best Players Entering the 2020 Season with three members of the San Francisco 49ers earning a spot. George Kittle, Richard Sherman and Nick Bosa – all of which earned Pro Bowl nods in 2019 – have each been recognized as top players at their respective positions.

The football analytics site compiled their list on individual players' skill, regardless of position. According to the site, PFF "started from the standpoint of a multiyear look at their grading before making adjustments based on situation, relevant injuries and new circumstances that could change a player's future outlook. Sample size was factored in as well as any suggestion of decline from players reaching the latter stages of their careers."

The 49ers were the most heavily represented team in the NFC West. Two members of the Seattle Seahawks (Russell Wilson – No. 7; Bobby Wagner – No. 17) and one member from the Los Angeles Rams (Aaron Donald – No. 1) and Arizona Cardinals (DeAndre Hopkins – No. 9) made PFF's list.

Nick Bosa - #41

Bosa exceeded expectations in his first NFL season. The reigning Defensive Rookie of the Year notched nine sacks, 47 total tackles (32 solo) and 25 quarterback hits, while racking up the fourth-most quarterback pressures in the NFL (60). He had the highest-graded rookie season on defense from 2017-2019, according to PFF (89.8) and was the third-highest graded edge rusher in 2019, trailing only Pittsburgh Steelers T.J. Watt and now-Baltimore Ravens Calais Campbell. Bosa is the only first year player to make this year's list after their rookie season.

PFF: 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.

Richard Sherman - #14

Sherman, in part with the 49ers highly-touted front seven, was key to San Francisco's top-ranked passing defense in 2019. According to PFF, the cornerback owned the third-lowest passer rating allowed when targeted in 2019 (46.8) behind New England Patriots J.C. Jackson (37.0) and Buffalo Bills Tre'Davious White (46.3). Sherman finished the season with 61 tackles, 11 passes defended and three interceptions, including one for a touchdown. It's also worth noting, he and K'Waun Williams  were the highest graded cornerback duo in the NFL in 2019.

PFF: 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.

George Kittle - #5

In his third NFL season, Kittle earned first team All-Pro honors following an 85-catch, 1,053-yard, five-touchdown performance in 2019. The tight end garnered those numbers while appearing in 14 games last season. His impact as a run blocker can't be overlooked, either. According to the site, Kittle is just one of two tight ends to rank among the best at his position in receiving and run-blocking (Philadelphia Eagles tight end Dallas Goedert). Kittle finished the season with a PFF grade of 95.0, their highest-graded player of 2019 and their highest mark ever for a tight end in the PFF era (since 2006).

PFF: 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.