No. 2: Linebacker NaVorro Bowman
One might think veteran linebacker NaVorro Bowman should be the most important player for the 49ers this upcoming season.
Well, almost. But not quite.
What keeps Bowman from the top guy on this list is the fact he could likely be relegated to second-tier duties at some point this season. And the guy who replaces him at MIKE would end up being the rookie, Reuben Foster — another player who just misses the cut but could see his name on here soon.
This isn’t a bad thing, per se. Remember, Bowman took over as the team’s No. 1 linebacker back in 2013 over Patrick Willis. The move allowed Willis to make more manageable plays, leaving the dirty work for a then-younger Bowman.
Remember, Bowman is coming off his second season-ending injury. While his prognosis for a fully healthy year looks good, it would be wise for San Francisco to lessen his role a bit and extend his career in the process.
Bowman is still the captain of the defense, without doubt. And his long-term importance remains strong, as he’ll serve as a mentor for guys like Foster in coming seasons.