1. Michael Carter 1984-1992 (3x Pro Bowler, 10 postseason victories, 3x Super Bowl champion)
Michael Carter flourished under San Francisco 49ers defensive coordinator George Seifert in the 1980s, with Carter anchoring the defensive line from the nose tackle position. Considered large at the time, Carter’s weight flirted with the 300-pound mark. He was nimble for his size, a great run stuffer, one of the best pass-rushing nose tackles in the NFL and a major contributor to the Super Bowl XXIII winning squad.
2. Bryant Young 1994-2007 (4x Pro Bowler, six postseason victories, Super Bowl XXIX champion)
Taken with the seventh overall selection in the 1994 NFL Draft, Bryant Young immediately made an impact his rookie season, starting every game. Young was one of the first defensive tackles to make playing 1-technique — lined up at a 45-degree angle to the center — fashionable. He had great success as both a 1-technique and 3-technique DT.
So important to the Niners’ playoffs success was Young that when he suffered a devastating leg injury that ended his 1998 campaign, it dashed the 49ers Super Bowl hopes that year. Young came back in 1999 and won the NFL Comeback Player of the Year award.
3. Dana Stubblefield 1993-1997, 2001-2002 (3x Pro Bowler, seven postseason victories, Super Bowl XXIX champion)
I tried my best to justify defensive end Justin Smith taking this third position, but Stubblefield’s Super Bowl win and postseason victories gave him the nod. A true 300-pounder, the 1997 NFL Defensive Player of the Year was an immovable object. Paired with Bryant Young early in their careers, they formed the best defensive tackle duo in the NFL and helped propel the Niners to Super Bowl XXIX glory.
4. Justin Smith 2008-2014 (5x Pro Bowler, five postseason victories)
After being acquired by the San Francisco 49ers in 2008, Smith quickly became the defense’s beating heart. A smart and tough defensive lineman, Smith was a leader on teams that went to three straight NFC championship games and a Super Bowl.