19. Justin Smith
Tkl 35 Solo 28
Smith was the gold standard at the 3-4 defensive end position, but that distinction may very well belong to Watt now. Smith might have taken a baby step backwards from 2011 to now, but the level at which he has been playing before this year was truly remarkable.
Still, Smith isn't going away any time soon and remains one of the league's best defensive players.
20. Patrick Willis
As noted on this list, there is an excellent wave of younger second-level defenders that have come on strong in the NFL recently.
But Willis remains the standard for 3-4 inside linebackers or 4-3 'backers because of his great pass coverage skills, recognition abilities, blitz prowess and, of course, his ability in the run game.
35. NaVorro Bowman
An argument can be made that Bowman is superior to Willis, but Willis' body of work right now is more impressive.
Bowman has rare range for the position and looks like he is shot out of a cannon when he gets his sights set on his target.
49. Vernon Davis
Defending San Francisco's offense is a difficult task, but defenses are starting to do everything possible to take Davis out of the equation and force Alex Smith to throw to the perimeter to his wide receivers.
That is a wise strategy, as Davis is a great all-around tight end. Although he hasn't put up tremendous numbers, he is making a positive impact every week.
They have Frank Gore, Mike Iupati and Aldon Smith as honorable mention.