NFL San Francisco 49ers

5 San Francisco 49ers Who Mean the Most to the Team’s Future

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5 San Francisco 49ers Who Mean the Most to the Team's Future

Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports

In the three seasons since Jim Harbaugh took over as San Francisco 49ers head coach, his team has enjoyed tremendous success. During this time they have posted an impressive regular season record of 36-11-1. His brash style and confidence helped return San Francisco to prominence. Now their formula for success is different compared to when Hall of Fame quarterbacks Joe Montana and Steve Young led classic aerial assaults.

These days things center on smash-mouth ball control. A great defense has been built to help grind out victories. Of course Harbaugh’s club qualified for their third consecutive NFC Championship Game after the 2013 season. Although they have lost two of these three contests, recent seasons should be looked at as successful. The Seattle Seahawks currently reside on top as soon to be defending Super Bowl champion. Talks of a repeat and dynasty have already begun, but if the 49ers have their way this simply won’t happen. The rivalry between these clubs figures to be intense for years to come. Right now NFL general managers are in the process of determining which players would improve fortunes for next season.

Sometimes, though, it is those players already on your roster that hold the most importance. With plenty of youth throughout the roster, much optimism exists for upcoming seasons. The NFC West figures to be competitive for several years to come. Several skill positions enjoy talent and youth. Their trademark defense also boasts a number of impact players. Here are five individuals who are most important when the 49ers view their future.

Nick Mamary is a New York Jets writer for Follow him on Twitter @NickMamary1, “Like” him on Facebook or add him to your network on Google.

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5. Aldon Smith

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Off-the-field issues robbed San Francisco of dynamic pass rusher Aldon Smith down the stretch last season. There are some rumblings regarding his long-term future, but 42 sacks in just three seasons makes Smith very important going forward.

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4. Michael Crabtree

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Despite what Richard Sherman says, Michael Crabtree is much better than “mediocre." Before suffering through an injury-plagued 2013 he combined for 157 receptions the last two years. Crabtree represents his team’s most explosive receiver and will be a vital play-maker for many more years.

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3. Vernon Davis

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A quarterback’s best option is often going down the middle targeting their tight end. Well Vernon Davis remains as athletic as when his career began. When things break down for quarterback Colin Kaepernick, Davis serves as his safety valve.

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2. Colin Kaepernick

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Speaking of Kaepernick, this QB’s playing style makes him such a matchup nightmare. From the pocket he can be very good, and of course scrambling also can be very dangerous with this player. Opposing teams may be able to scheme for his read-option, but again Kaepernick remains far from simply being a gimmick player.

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1. Patrick Willis

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Patrick Willis represents this generation’s Ray Lewis or Brian Urlacher. From his middle linebacker spot, he is the new enforcer that lights up opposing ball carriers. Only one out of seven seasons resulted in less than 100 combined stops. This is San Francisco’s best player, and at only 29 years old he will be so for the foreseeable future.