The 49ers have their fair share of big names and equally as big contracts. But there are always guys who fly under the radar, bear the brunt of the load, or don’t get the credit they deserve.
So I polled Niners Nation followers on Twitter: who are the most underrated and/or under-appreciated Niners? We explore some of those names in Part One of this series.
Question for my @NinersNation followers: Who in your opinion is the most underrated/underappreciated player on the @49ers and why?— Celia Palermo (@CeliaPalermo) September 27, 2021
1. Jimmie Ward: Ward was picked as the most underrated and under-appreciated Niners, and it’s easy to see why. Ward has proven himself to be one of the most critical defenders on the field for San Francisco. The 2014 first-rounder is one of the most experienced on the back end of the defense and brings that experience every snap.
Since starting his pro career, the 30-year-old has tallied 264 solo tackles & 340 combined. He’s progressed nicely over the years: in 2018, Pro Football Focus rated him as just 55.2. The following season he reached 84.2 and 73.5 last season. If Ward can stay healthy, he’s more than cemented himself as a top threat on defense.
Jimmie Ward.— Tyler Competente (@Competente13) September 27, 2021
Rare skill set. Elite tackler. Team friendly contract.
Watch the 49ers in 2018 and you understand why safety HAS to be cemented in this defense.
2. Laken Tomlinson: Big. Steady. Reliable. Just a few of the words used to describe the 2015 first-round pick. Through three games, he’s ranked within the top ten at his position according to Pro Football Focus with a 77.8 grade.
He’s a key piece to the Niners running attack and flies under the radar by efficiently doing his job game in and game out. So when the Niners acquired him in a 2017 trade with the Lions, they got a high-value-relatively low-cost guy who they’ll likely look to re-sign at the end of the season.
He just keeps plugging along and showing up week after week smashing dudes.— MuchachoLindo (@terrellhuff) September 27, 2021
3. Kyle Juszczyk: He understands the assignment. Juice is consistently efficient at his position, muscling his way to tough yards, making big catches, and proving to be an effective blocking fullback.
So much so, he’s received a Pro-Bowl nod each of the four seasons he’s played in San Francisco, and five so far. Since being picked up from Baltimore before the start of the 2017 season, Juice has tallied more than 1200 yards and ten touchdowns.
San Francisco wants more Juice, which is why the Niners signed him to a five-year, $27 million deal. So it’s safe to say they’re in it for the long haul and are seeing the returns on the field each and every game. Plus, he’s a fan favorite!
Juice. I don’t ever remember him screwing up. Always seems to do exactly what he’s supposed to do.— 11TimeChamps (@11TimeChamps) September 27, 2021
Stay tuned for Part Two — and weigh in on Twitter.