Best rookie seasons in San Francisco 49ers history: No. 2: LB Patrick Willis (2007)
Up until now, we’ve been talking about solid players—a couple of Pro Bowl berths here and there, some solid statistics, and some good memories.
Twice, however, the 49ers have drafted a player and seen them immediately establish themselves as the best at their position in the entire league; there’s a rather massive gap between the top two people on this list and everyone else.
Patrick Willis was the No. 11 overall pick out of Mississippi in 2007 and got tutelage from Hall of Famer Mike Singletary as a rookie.
Something rubbed off. Wills led the league with 174 tackles, adding four sacks, two forced fumbles and five passes deflected. He earned Rookie of the Week honors four times and ended up easily winning the Defensive Rookie of the Year award. He was voted as the first-team All-Pro linebacker in 2007 alongside Lofa Tatupu, beating out Nick Barnett and DeMeco Ryans in the process.
Willis made a massive impact from the first time he stepped onto the field, showing the leadership, tenacity and bone-crushing hits that would make him into the best linebacker in the league during his playing career. He entered the league essentially fully formed, already the superstar we grew to knew and love.
It wasn’t the best rookie season, though.