If you were to pool the rosters for the biggest NFL game of the year, whom would you take at No. 1?
As the momentum builds for the Feb. 3 Super Bowl, ESPN Insider's Matt Williamson and Gary Horton ranked all 106 roster players for the San Francisco 49ers and Baltimore Ravens. Although it's not easy to split hairs evaluating special-teamers, there was a strict method to their approach:
1. How good is this player right now?
2. What is his value to his team come Super Bowl Sunday?
Positional value absolutely plays a role. Special-teamers aren't exactly going to pop up early on these rankings -- though we all know even relatively anonymous players can make a big difference in a Super Bowl. Still, no matter how great a place-kicker is, he is never going to top a quarterback.
Speaking of quarterbacks, Joe Flacco and Colin Kaepernick present an interesting twist compared to last season's rankings, where Tom Brady and Eli Manning were the clear leaders of their teams. But where do you slot a quarterback who has never fit the definition of "elite" and a first-year starter in his first postseason?
While both are blue-chippers -- one of several categories we used to classify players in this exercise -- neither is the most important player in this game. That honor goes to San Francisco's often underrated Justin Smith.
1. DT Justin Smith -- 49ers
Smith might be the most important player in the Super Bowl. He missed time this season with a triceps injury, but his time off showed just how great of an overall player he is. No player in this game should benefit from the extra week's rest as much as Smith will.