The San Francisco 49ers have several players who warrant consideration as the best player on the team. In addition, this title can change from week to week. Let's take a look at who should be considered.
I was very close to choosing Patrick Willis as the 49ers' best player, but opted against it. Willis is currently in his sixth year in the NFL and is a five-time Pro Bowl selection. He is also a four-time First-Team All-Pro. Had this question been posed at the beginning of last season, Willis would have been my choice.
Willis is an outstanding linebacker and a leader of the 49ers' defense. However, with the emergence of fellow inside linebacker NaVorro Bowman, Willis may not even be the best linebacker on the team.
From 2007-10, Willis led the 49ers in tackles. In 2011, Willis missed three games due to injury and Bowman led the team in tackles. Through the first three games of 2012, Bowman also leads the 49ers in tackles. Bowman is a step quicker and better in pass coverage than Willis.
Justin Smith is an inspirational leader for the 49ers' defense and their best defensive lineman. His all-out hustle and determination is recognized by his teammates. Smith's work ethic and overall effort is a huge motivational influence for the 49ers.
However, Smith is not a dominant enough player to be considered the 49ers' best.
On the offensive side of the ball, Vernon Davis was given serious consideration. Davis has come into his own over the past three seasons and has a strong bond with quarterback Alex Smith. In 2011, Davis had 67 catches for 792 yards and six touchdowns. He led all tight ends with 13 TD's in 2009.
Davis is also an excellent blocker and a big part of the 49ers' running game. He has one Pro Bowl selection in 2009 and will almost certainly be chosen this year.
My choice to wear the crown is Frank Gore. I believe that right now, today, Gore is the 49ers' best player. Gore suffered a severe hip injury that cut short his 2010 season, as he missed the 49ers' final five games. There were concerns that his great career was winding down.
Gore broke into the NFL as a third-round draft pick in 2005. After becoming the 49ers' featured back in 2006, he rushed for over 1,000 yards from 2006-09. His best year was in 2006, when he rushed for 1,695 yards.
After returning in 2011, Gore got off to a bit of a slow start, then came on strong as the season progressed. He finished the season with 1,211 yards rushing, the second highest total of his career.
Gore is running very well this season, as he has accumulated 264 yards on 45 carries, a 5.9 yards-per-carry average. Gore runs with great vision and still looks as quick and powerful as ever.
Gore is a complete back, as he can catch the ball out of the backfield and is a very good pass blocker. He is especially good at picking up the blitz, helping to protect his quarterback.
A well-respected team leader, Gore is a positive, no-nonsense presence on the 49ers. All he does is go out and perform, giving maximum effort on every play.
As I mentioned, on any given week, the 49ers' best player could be any one of these players. Each of these men are stars, and depending on the game plan and the opposition, each can shine the brightest.