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Two 49ers selected to 2019 Pro Bowl, three alternates named



Two 49ers are headed to the 2019 Pro Bowl. Fullback Kyle Juszczyk was named a starter and tight end George Kittle was named a reserve. Three players were named as alternates, including defensive tackle DeForest Buckner, kicker Robbie Gould, and linebacker Mark Nzeocha.

Below are recaps of their standout seasons.

Kyle Juszczyk (third Pro Bowl)

As long as the Pro Bowl includes a fullback, which has become a dying breed in today’s pass-happy NFL, Juszczyk is likely to be included.

He signed the richest fullback deal in NFL history prior to the 2017 season for a reason — Kyle Shanahan uses fullbacks more than any other coach. Juszczyk is a steady cog in Shanahan’s 21 personnel (two wide receivers, two running backs, and one tight end) base. Shanahan maintains that the presence of a fullback dictates how defenses line up because they have to respect the run.

Shanahan uses Juszczyk liberally. He runs, blocks, catches, and even facilitates the occasional speed option. He is a key piece that makes the 49ers offense hum. Juszczyk has been on the field for 62 percent of the 49ers offense’s snaps, the 13th-most out of all NFL running backs. The next closest fullback, in terms of usage, is James Develin, at 35 percent. Juszczyk leads all fullbacks with 29 catches for 309 yards on the season.

George Kittle (first Pro Bowl)

Kittle showed promise in a productive, though injury-filled, rookie season. But no one could have predicted him posting one of the best seasons ever from a tight end in his second season.

Through 14 games, Kittle has 72 catches, 1,154 yards, and four touchdowns. He needs 174 receiving yards to break Rob Gronkowski’s single-season record for a tight end, though Kansas City’s Travis Kelce needs just 107 yards, too.

Perhaps the most unique part of Kittle’s season has been his ability to rip off extra yardage. His 496 yards after the catch rank second in the NFL behind Giants running back Saquon Barkley. The closest non-running back to Kittle in that department is Vikings receiver Adam Thielen, who has 309 yards after the catch. Kittle is averaging an astounding 10.8 yards after each catch. He also has gains of 85, 82, and 71 yards this year.

Kittle has been the top receiving option on a 49ers offense that has cycled three different quarterbacks and struggled to find a de facto No. 1 wide receiver. Kittle has 39 catches and 708 more yards than the next closest 49ers receiver.

All of this to say: Kittle is deserving of his first Pro Bowl nod.


DeForest Buckner (potential first Pro Bowl)

All signs pointed to Buckner exploding this year, and he has fulfilled that expectation. Buckner has undoubtedly been the 49ers’ best defensive player, an immovable, freakish force who regularly sheds double teams for sacks and run stops.

Through 14 games, Buckner ranks third out of all NFL interior linemen with 11 sacks and 16 tackles for loss. He is the first 49ers player with double-digit sacks in a season since Aldon Smith had 19.5 in 2012. Buckner leads the next-closest 49er, Ronald Blair, by 5.5 sacks.

Buckner’s first Pro Bowl bid follows his most dominant performance of the season. He compiled 11 tackles, four for a loss, two sacks, and three quarterback hits in San Francisco’s 26-23 win over Seattle last Sunday.

Robbie Gould (potential second Pro Bowl)

Gould has been near-perfect since joining the 49ers prior to the 2017 season. He has made 68 of 71 field goal attempts and 52 of 56 extra point attempts throughout 30 games. He has missed just one field goal this season, giving him a league-best 96.7 percent make rate.

Gould entered the 2018 season as the fifth-most accurate kicker in NFL history. His near-flawless season has vaulted him to the No. 2 spot, at 87.624 percent, behind only Baltimore’s Justin Tucker.

Gould’s potential Pro Bowl bid (his lone bid came in 2006) caps a memorable week. Last Sunday, he made a game-winning 36-yard field goal in overtime to lift the 49ers over the Seahawks, 26-23, for the first time in their last 11 matchups.

Mark Nzeocha (potential first Pro Bowl)

You can thank Germany for this possibility.

Nzeocha, one of three active NFL players of German descent, received about 80 percent of his Pro Bowl votes from his native country, according to the NFL. Nzeocha is a largely unknown name outside of the Bay Area and Germany, but he asserted himself this season as a standout special-teamer and rotational SAM linebacker. He is second on the 49ers with five special teams tackles. He also laid a key block last Sunday during Richie James’ 97-yard kickoff return for a touchdown, San Francisco’s first returned score since Week 1 of the 2011 season.