The Duel

3 Greatest Defensive Players in 49ers History

Jason Schandl
The greatest defensive players in 49ers history, including Ronnie Lott.
The greatest defensive players in 49ers history, including Ronnie Lott. / Focus On Sport/Getty Images
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The San Francisco 49ers are one of the most successful franchises in NFL history. With five Super Bowl rings, it should come as no surprise that this team has featured some top-tier talents across many different positions. The defensive side of the ball has certainly been no exception.

With that in mind, let's take a look at the three greatest defensive players in 49ers history.

3. Patrick Willis (2007-2014)

Patrick Willis is the greatest linebacker in 49ers history.
Patrick Willis is the greatest linebacker in 49ers history. / Michael Zagaris/Getty Images

Patrick Willis got overshadowed a bit as a contemporary of Ray Lewis and Brian Urlacher. Despite their overlapping careers, Willis still led the NFL in both combined and solo tackles in tow of his first three NFL seasons. His career was cut short by injuries in just his eighth season, but Willis was a first-team All-Pro in five of his seven full years in the league, averaging 8.5 tackles per game over his career.

2. Bryant Young (1994-2007)

Bryant Young is one of the 49ers best defensive players of all time.
Bryant Young is one of the 49ers best defensive players of all time. / Robert B. Stanton/Getty Images

Bryant Young spent over a decade as a monster on the 49ers' defensive line. He had at least 6.0 sacks in six of his first seven years in the NFL, also notching at least 9.5 in four of those six. Thanks to some impressive longevity (playing 208 games), Young retired with 89.5 sacks to his name. That's over 20 more than anybody else in franchise history.

1. Ronnie Lott (1981-1990)

Ronnie Lott is the greatest defensive player in 49ers history.
Ronnie Lott is the greatest defensive player in 49ers history. / Dan Honda/Getty Images

This one's a no-doubter. Ronnie Lott is in the conversation for the greatest defensive player in NFL history, and he's in a tier of his own in San Francisco. The first 10 of his 14 pro seasons came with the 49ers, and he won All-Pro honors five times, being named to nine Pro Bowls. Lott averaged over 5 interceptions a year with the Niners (51 in 10 seasons), also amassing 721 tackles. A four-time Super Bowl Champion, Lott was a first-ballot Hall of Famer in 2000, and his number 42 has been retired by the 49ers.


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Jason Schandl is not a FanDuel employee. In addition to providing DFS gameplay advice, Jason Schandl also participates in DFS contests on FanDuel using his personal account, username Jaymun. While the strategies and player selections recommended in his articles are his personal views, he may deploy different strategies and player selections when entering contests with his personal account. The views expressed in their articles are the author's alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of FanDuel.

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