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What Is Ahmad Brooks Upside?

One of the first pieces of business the 49ers handled this offseason was getting Ahmad Brooks locked up to a six year contract back in late February. The 49ers outside linebacker entered the starting lineup in 2011 after years of working in a platoon pass rush role. He put together his best season and was rewarded with the contract.

One of the best pieces of news to come out of this offseason might be that Brooks stayed in San Francisco to work out all spring and summer, and reportedly entered camp in the best shape of his life. The "best shape of his life" storyline is a frequently heard training camp story, but considering how much Brooks changed his offseason regimen (he stayed in the Bay Area instead of returning home to Virginia), I think there is reason to believe Brooks is in phenomenal shape.

Brooks recorded career highs in sacks and tackles this past season, and one "team insider" seems to think he could lead the team in sacks in 2012:

"There has always been talk that he could be a special Lawrence Taylor-type talent, a 270-pounder who can play like a 230-pounder and beat you on the edge with both his power and speed. He seems different, a lot more comfortable in his own skin."

Brooks has always been considered a big upside guy, but there were a variety of question marks about him taking the next step. While we think about what Aldon Smith or NaVorro Bowman or Chris Culliver can do in this defense, Ahmad Brooks could be the guy who really emerges. He had a big season last year, but remains a bit under the radar. Imagine if the 49ers could get double digit sacks from BOTH outside linebackers?