Jim Harbaugh has built an excellent team
The San Francisco 49ers have a 9-2 record and are one victory away from clinching their division. Nobody in their wildest dreams would have predicted this level of success so soon in Jim Harbaugh's tenure as head coach of this team. What he has been able to accomplish in his first year has been amazing.
As we dare look ahead to the playoffs, the 49ers have some players that will need to step forward if they hope to make a run in the postseason. The 49ers have been doing great and for that to continue into the playoffs, these players will need to produce positive results.
There are some players who are overrated and have not fully played up to their capabilities. These underachieving 49ers have high expectations placed on them, which is the definition of overrated.
Let's take a look at some of the 49ers who can be considered overrated, based on their play this season.
Ahmad Brooks has had periods of inconsistency
Ahmad Brooks has emerged as a full-time starter in the 2011 season. He has made several strong plays, but does have some periods of inconsistency.
Brooks has 35 tackles, including six sacks, over the first 11 games of the season. He has also forced one fumble.
The one main area I have noticed where he can have trouble is with play-action. He tends to move towards the running back and allow his assignment, often the tight end or other running back, to slide out and get behind him.
Brooks is susceptible to these types of plays, which result in completed passes behind him, because he bites up too aggressively on those run fakes.
Nevertheless, Brooks has played well for the most part this year.
Left tackle Joe Staley has played in every game this year
When the San Francisco 49ers selected Joe Staley in the first round of the 2007 draft, they were hoping for a dominant left tackle. Staley has had injury problems in each of the past two seasons, playing in only nine games in both 2009 and 2010.
Staley is a solid player, but not the dominant presence the 49ers were hoping for when they made him a first round pick. Early in the 2011 season, Staley was having problems with faster defensive ends getting around him and strong defensive ends bull-rushing him.
He has been a lot more steady in his past few outings—not including the Baltimore game—when the entire line had problems.
Staley is a good, though not great, offensive lineman. His level of play is often below what you would expect from a 27-year-old tackle, who should be in the prime of his career.
Vernon Davis is an elite tight end
Vernon Davis is arguably the second best offensive weapon the 49ers have, after Frank Gore. Davis, with his size and speed creates matchup problems for any opposing defense. He is also a fine blocker in the run game.
Davis has 43 receptions for 484 yards and five touchdowns over the first 11 games of the season. His production is down from the past couple of years when he had over 900 receiving yards.
Davis has had lapses in his concentration and dropped several passes this season. The drops have come at inopportune times, often costing the 49ers first-down completions. This penchant for missing passes thrown his way has not been a problem in the past few years, however it has cropped up in 2011.
Parys Haralson has seen his playing time drop
Parys Haralson has seen his playing time drop in 2011, as the 49ers have used pass-rushing rookie Aldon Smith on passing downs. Haralson has the ability to make big plays, but has not played with the consistency he needs to. He has a tendency to disappear for long stretches, at times.
Haralson has 23 tackles and two sacks this year. He has no interceptions but has forced three fumbles.
Haralson is losing time to Smith and may find himself on the bench in 2012, if Smith continues to develop.
Ted Ginn Jr. is an excellent return man
Ted Ginn Jr. has done a fine job as a kickoff and punt-return man. He has returned one kickoff and one punt for scores. It is as a return specialist where Ginn is the most valuable for the 49ers.
Ginn has excellent speed, but often does not catch the ball when it's thrown to him. Ginn has received more playing time this year as Josh Morgan is out with an injury and Braylon Edwards has also missed time due to injury.
Ginn has just 12 receptions for 136 yards and has dropped several passes he should have caught. Ginn also does not like to catch the ball in traffic over the middle and often does not go for those passes with much desire.
The bottom line is that Ginn is a valuable return man but as a wide receiver, he is both overrated and inconsistent.
Michael Crabtree has played well of late.
Injuries and a diva attitude have prevented Crabtree from reaching the potential the 49ers drafted him for. Crabtree also does not have the great speed to be a game-breaking receiver. His one touchdown this year amplifies this fact.
Where Crabtree makes a positive impact is as a possession receiver who can actually gain additional yardage after the catch.
He is only an average route runner, although he seems to be getting in better sync with Alex Smith. Crabtree has had some very productive games of late, but overall, he has not met the expectations the 49ers were counting on when they drafted him so high.
Crabtree has caught 44 passes for 509 yards and has played in 10 of the 49ers 11 games. Crabtree will be a productive receiver, although he will never be the top-tier, dominant receiver the 49ers hoped for when they drafted him.
Braylon Edwards has been a disappointment
Braylon Edwards was signed as a free agent, prior to the season. The 49ers were hoping he would be the same receiver who had 53 catches for over 900 yards last year.
Unfortunately for Edwards and the 49ers, he has not been healthy after suffering a torn meniscus in the second game of the year. Edwards missed the next four games following knee surgery, and was clearly slowed by the balky knee upon his return.
Edwards has also been playing with a bad shoulder and has not been at all productive. He looked so bad in recent weeks that I would recommend he sits out a game or two to let his body heal.
Edwards has only 14 receptions for 172 yards and no touchdowns. He has been a disappointment this year but that could change if he can get healthy.
The 49ers will need a lot more production from Edwards, in order to improve their passing attack. They don't need him right now, but will in the playoffs.
Patrick Willis leads the 49ers' defense
The San Francisco 49ers will win their division and should get a first round bye in the playoffs. They have an outstanding defense that will give them a chance to win any game.
If some of the players mentioned in this article are able to step up and play up to their capabilities, there is no reason the 49ers can't advance to the NFC Championship game.
This is an exciting time in San Francisco. It's fun to be a 49er fan again.