Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images
49ers Donte Whitner forces the ball away from Buccaneers running back Brian Leonard with a big hit.
Note: Suggested replacements are derived from the list of players not selected to the starting roster. They could very well earn a Pro Bowl berth down the line as an alternate for their respective team.
Anquan Boldin, Wide Receiver
Boldin is a fine choice as an alternate wideout.
He leads the 49ers with 76 catches for 1,030 yards (No. 7 in NFL) and ranks second to Vernon Davis with six touchdowns.
Pro Football Focus grades him as the No. 11 overall receiver with the third-highest average for yards per route run (2.40).
The last time Boldin produced these numbers was 2008—also the year of his most recent Pro Bowl nod.
Alex Boone, Guard
Like his left-guard counterpart, Boone hasn’t performed to the level of his top-five status of 2012.
He went from a positive-22.9 rating with just 20 pressures allowed last year, to a 1.5 overall grade and negative-2.6 in pass blocking in 2013, per Pro Football Focus.
Boone still paves consistent openings for Frank Gore and Company. But his work in pass protection falls well short of his success as a run blocker.
More Deserving: Larry Warford, Detroit Lions
Andy Lee, Punter
The three-time Pro Bowler and First-Team All Pro is a well-deserved alternate candidate.
Lee ranks third in average yards (48.6), fourth in net (41.9) and No. 1 with a 5.60 maximum hang time.
He is one of the most directionally precise and consistent punters in the NFL today.
Eric Reid, Safety
The 49ers' rookie free safety has been a tremendous upgrade over free-agent departure Dashon Goldson.
Reid is tied for third among his positional mates with four interceptions. He also has given up just two touchdowns (third-fewest) and a 66.9 passer rating (top 20) in his coverage area.
Credit No. 35 with 10 pass breakups and two fumble recoveries, as well.
One prominent issue with Reid is tackling. His 13 missed opportunities are fifth-highest from the safety position.
Receiving a Pro Bowl invitation as an alternate may have been a bit too premature.
Reid’s time will come soon enough.
More Deserving: Devin McCourty, New England Patriots
C.J. Spillman, Special Teamer
Spillman has amassed the fourth-most tackles on special teams in the NFL (13).
The quick-footed gunner routinely makes the initial stop on the 49ers' much-improved coverage unit in 2013.
That said, Spillman has missed two tackles and has received a negative-8.0 by Pro Football Focus for his work on punts.
Michael Wilhoite, fellow special teams ace for San Francisco, actually rates better in the relevant metrics.
He sports an overall positive-7.6 grade (sixth-highest), including the third-most tackles (14) and zero missed opportunities.
Wilhoite is especially effective on kickoffs.
More Deserving: Michael Wilhoite, San Francisco 49ers
Donte Whitner, Safety
Last but certainly not least, Whitner deserved a starting roster spot on the 2014 Pro Bowl.
Pro Football Focus’ No. 5 ranked safety has given up a scant 52.2 completion percentage, two touchdowns and a 66.2 passer rating in his coverage area.
Whitner ranks third on the 49ers with 69 tackles and second with 12 pass breakups. He also has three tackles for loss, two interceptions, two forced fumbles and one fumble recovery to his name.
The 2012 starter definitely earned similar honors one year later.
On a final note, Whitner is entirely more qualified than Kam Chancellor, who made the squad as a strong safety for the Seattle Seahawks.
Chancellor grades out as No. 11 overall—well below Whitner’s top-five status.
Will this omission foster even more enmity between these division rivals in the playoffs?
Looks like Whitner will serve as the source for that information come January.
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