49ers have heavy presence in PFF top 101 players

It’s no secret the 49ers hold one of the NFL’s best rosters. That’s part of the reason they were confident in plugging the inexperienced Trey Lance in as their starter to begin the year, and why rookie seventh-round pick Brock Purdy was so successful in his stint as the starting QB.

Pro Football Focus supported claims of San Francisco’s top-end roster by putting seven of their players in the top 101 of the 2022 season.

The usual suspects are sprinkled around the list, but two names stick out that show off good team-building by the 49ers.

While Nick Bosa and Trent Williams sit near the top of the list, cornerback Charvarius Ward and linebacker Dre Greenlaw also make appearances further down.

Ward was a somewhat under-the-radar free agent addition who played extremely well for San Francisco and revamped a secondary that badly needed a star. While Ward wasn’t the top free agent cornerback last year, he played like he was. His contributions helped the 49ers overcome the loss of Emmanuel Moseley and continue producing as one of the top passing defenses in the NFL. What stands out though was his contributions to the 49ers’ top-ranked run defense, where he was PFF’s highest-graded CB against the run.

Free agency is just one way of filling out a top-flight roster. The draft is perhaps even more important, and San Francisco’s success making selections there has helped immensely in their run to three NFC title games in four years.

One of those picks was linebacker Dre Greenlaw, a fifth-round selection in 2019 who landed on the top 101 list following his best year as a pro. Greenlaw and Fred Warner form the best linebacker duo in the NFL by a wide margin, and Greenlaw’s range in coverage helps the 49ers control the middle of the field better than any team. Turning late-round picks into top-101 caliber players will keep San Francisco in contention better than perhaps any other facet of their team building.

Beyond those two, the usual stars shone for the 49ers this year and made their way into the top 101. Not on the list was All-Pro safety Talanoa Hufanga, who had a breakout second season. Jimmie Ward didn’t make the list either after moving from free safety to nickel cornerback. Neither Brandon Aiyuk nor Deebo Samuel made the cut either.

Here’s a quick look at who did make the PFF top 101:

But. 11 | DE Nick Bosa

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Bosa led the NFL in sacks and earned the NFL’s Defensive Player of the Year award, but still finished behind Browns DE Myles Garrett (No. 6) and Cowboys LB Micah Parsons (No. 5).

But. 13 | LT Trent Williams

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While Williams was the third offensive lineman on the list, he was the top left tackle. He remains one of the most dominant players in the NFL even at age 34.

But. 31 | RB Christian McCaffrey

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The 49ers were lambasted by some for trading so much draft capital for an expensive running back in 2022, but McCaffrey proved to be worth much more than a typical RB. Despite playing in just 11 games for San Francisco, he led the team in touches and scrimmage yards, and came up one short of George Kittle for the team lead in touchdowns.

But. 34 | LB Fred Warner

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Warner is redefining the linebacker position in the NFL. His ability to cover virtually any player that runs across the middle of the field changes the way the 49ers can play defense, and changes the way offenses have to operate.

But. 40 | TE George Kittle

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Kittle is carving out a new role as the 49ers rely on him less for pass catching volume, and more as a big play machine and a red zone weapon. His 11 touchdowns this season nearly doubled his previous career-high, all while continuing his run as one of the elite blocking TEs in the league.

But. 61 | CB Charvarius Ward

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San Francisco needed a No. 1 corner, and got one with Ward. He was excellent in every facet. Without him the 49ers’ secondary might have been shaky enough to keep them out of a playoff run.

But. 86 | LB Dre Greenlaw

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Greenlaw went from good player to excellent player in his fourth NFL season. He far outplayed the two-year extension he signed prior to the season, and his elevated play was a significant factor in the 49ers producing the NFL’s best defense.

Story originally appeared on Niners Wire

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