- Paul Gutierrez, ESPN Staff Writer
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A suspension is coming any day now for Aldon Smith for numerous transgressions off the field, and NaVorro Bowman is lost for at least six games -- if not half the season -- as he rehabs from a nasty knee injury suffered in January’s NFC title game.
So judging by their lofty standings in the ESPN.com Top 100 player rankings project -- Smith was No. 15 among all defensive players in the NFL, Bowman is No. 12 -- you’d think the San Francisco 49ers defense would have a major adjustment period out of the gate this season, not counting breaking in a new nose tackle and essentially three new starters in the secondary.
But that’s a different post for a different time. This is about Smith, who was No. 10 last year, and Bowman, No. 18 in 2013, and how they are stalwarts on the 49ers’ stout defense.
“Despite missing nearly half of last season, Smith recorded 42 sacks in his first three seasons,” ESPN Stats & Info said of Smith, who was in rehab during the season. “The only players with more sacks in their first three seasons were Reggie White  and Derrick Thomas [43.5].”
Bowman, meanwhile, improved six spots from last year.
“Over the past three seasons, Bowman leads the NFL in postseason tackles (78),” per ESPN Stats & Info. “During that span, Bowman's 317 solo tackles are the most in the league.”
Following are the 49ers’ defensive players recognized in the #NFLRanks project, and with the countdown going from 10 to 1 on Friday, can you guess who is left?
No. 97 – SS Antoine Bethea
No. 74 – LB Ahmad Brooks
No. 71 – FS Eric Reid
No. 26 – DT Justin Smith
No. 15 – LB Aldon Smith
No. 12 – LB NaVorro Bowman