Best 49er - 2004
On a team that's lost its most recognizable offensive players -- quarterback Jeff Garcia, wide receiver Terrell Owens, and running back Garrison Hearst -- the best of the new-look 49ers is linebacker Julian Peterson. A two-time Pro Bowler who has yet to become a household name, Peterson is everything the modern linebacker is supposed to be: intelligent, fast, explosive. With enough range to cover running backs and blitz the quarterback, Peterson is coming off a 95-tackle season in which he also collected seven sacks and two interceptions. In the off-season the 49ers designated Peterson their franchise player, locking him into a contract that keeps him in San Francisco for at least another year. With any luck, the salary cap-challenged team will find a way to finally secure Peterson to a long-term deal; he's the kind of high-character, high-impact player an organization can build around.