If you ask old school scouts what is required to field a championship contender, they will quickly tell you that it takes eight to twelve blue-chip players to compete for a title. This premise has been the standard for general managers around the league and I rely on it to help me identify the players to watch on game day.
With that in mind, let's identify the players to watch on the Cowboys' next opponent. As we enter the NFC Divisional round of the playoffs, here's a quick report on the current blue-chip players for the 49ers.
Brock Purdy, QB: "Mr. Irrelevant" has been on an impressive run with seven straight games with at least two touchdown passes. With his pinpoint passing and movement skills, the former seventh-round pick has taken the 49ers' offense to another level. Although Purdy lacks elite physical traits, the rookie's management ability and point guard-like distribution skills make the 49ers' offense nearly impossible to defend.
Christian McCaffrey, RB: As an RB1/WR2 with A-plus skills as a runner and receiver, CMC is a dangerous playmaker out of the backfield with the potential to score from anywhere on the field. With Kyle Shanahan digging into his bag to create exotic play designs that put No.23 in space against an overmatched defender, the Cowboys need to pay close attention to the veteran's whereabouts at all times.
Deebo Samuel, WR: The hybrid playmaker is a running back masquerading as a wide receiver on the perimeter. Samuel is arguably the best "catch-and-run" specialist in the league, with a combination of size, strength, and power, making him a challenge to tackle in the open field. As a 220-plus pound playmaker with a knack for producing splash plays with the ball in his hands, the 49ers' designated big play threat is a problem for opponents featuring poor tacklers on the perimeter.
Brandon Aiyuk, WR: The 49ers' WR2 quietly posted the first 1,000-yard season of his career while displaying exceptional ball skills and running ability. Aiyuk is a talented playmaker extraordinaire with the potential to explode for a big game if the defense ignores him in coverage.
George Kittle, TE: The all-star tight end is a rare find as a playmaking pass catcher with exceptional blocking skills. Kittle creates mismatches on the edges as a blocker and receiver. And the 49ers will tap into his versatility to exploit vulnerable defenses on the ground or through the air.
Trent Williams, OT: The monstrous edge blocker displays rare athleticism knocking defenders off the screen on pulls and climb blocks in space. Williams' ability to move defenders utilizing various approaches in the trenches keys the 49ers' dynamic running game.
Nick Bosa, EDGE: As a relentless pass rusher with refined technical skills and A-plus movement skills is a nightmare to block on the edge. Bosa can win with speed, power or skill off the edge utilizing an array of pass rush maneuvers plucked from a teaching tape. If the Cowboys do not direct extra blockers to No.97, the all-star defender will single-handedly wreck their offensive game plan as a sack artist.
Fred Warner, LB: The instinctive "MIKE" backer is a tackling machine with outstanding diagnostic skills. Warner quickly deciphers blocking schemes and passing concepts to put himself in the middle of the action. As the 49ers' designated traffic cop, the all-star ability to roam from numbers to numbers sets the tone for a defense that overwhelms opponents with speed and violence.
Dre Greenlaw, LB: The 49ers' "run-and-chase" linebacker is a disruptive force at the second level. Greenlaw runs through opponents like a bull in a china shop, and his "thump" skills force runners and receivers to pause before venturing between the tackles or over the middle.
Talanoa Hufanga, SS: The 49ers' playmaking safety has added a dimension to the defense with his versatility as a box defender. Hufanga's tackling skills and pass rush ability force quarterbacks to pay attention to whereabouts during the pre-snap phase. But his underrated ball skills and playmaking instincts have upgraded a secondary that specializes in stealing picks on tips and overthrows.