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Shanaplan: Handing out first-half awards for the 49ers

Plus, predicting the breakout player in the second half

San Francisco 49ers v Los Angeles Rams Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images

The 49ers get a much-needed week off and are away from the facility during their bye week. So on this week’s Shanaplan, Akash and I handed out some midseason awards, going against the grain a bit.

MVP - Fred Warner/Jimmy Garoppolo

I went with Fred Warner, who does everything on this defense. Defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans puts a lot on Warner’s plate each week. For example, on one play, Warner’s responsibility might be to guard Cooper Kupp 1-on-1. The next play might call for Warner to blitz, while the next play means he has to take on an offensive lineman.

Warner hasn’t missed a game, which shouldn’t be taken for granted on this team. Per Sports info Solutions, he’s second among all linebackers in pass breakups, average depth of tackle (1.5 yards), and pressure rate. Warner has only missed two tackles and is top-10 in fewest yards per target allowed. Unlike most linebackers and second-level defenders, Warner covers pass-catchers 50 yards down the field.

Akash had a strong argument for Garoppolo.

Offensive player of the first half - Brandon Aiyuk

As tempting as it was to select Christian McCaffrey, Aiyuk has proven to be a No. 1 receiver that you can run your offense through.

Since Week 5, Aiyuk has 24 catches, which ranks fourth among all receivers. He’s forced five tackles, which ranks fourth. His 304 receiving yards rank seventh — all while failing to record a drop on 31 targets, which is the most targets without a drop by a receiver during that span. Add in three touchdowns, which is the third among all receivers.

Defensive player of the first half - Nick Bosa

Bosa is fifth in total pressures, tied for second in sacks and ninth in run stops among all edge rushers. He’s probably first in penalties drawn/not called against. Bosa is the definition of dominant. His effort is amazing and what makes his game so impressive is that opposing offenses go out of their way to game-plan for Bosa, yet he still produces.

When you adjust for attempts, Bosa’s numbers are even better. He leads the league in pass-rushing productivity, second in pass-rush win rate and win percentage, per PFF. Bosa has better numbers than the frontrunner for Defensive MVP, Micah Parsons.

Bosa has come out of his shell a bit in postgame interviews, making him easier to root for as he shows more of his personality.

Rookie of the Year - Aaron Banks/Drake Jackson

Picking Aaron Banks is cheating. I don’t care. It’s nearly impossible to talk about offensive linemen since we don’t have the same type of counting or advanced stats as we do at other positions. Sacks and pressures account for fewer than 10% of their plays, yet, that’s all we focus on.

Some of Banks’ best blocks are basic plays where he pulls from across the line of scrimmage. It’s nothing flashy, but he’s a big reason the 49ers have been successful this season. The 49ers have the second-highest line yards in the NFL when they run between Trent Williams and Banks. But, unfortunately, they’re below average everywhere else.

Only three left guards in the NFC have earned more points in Sports Info Solutions metrics than Banks, who also hasn’t missed a start and has a lower blown block rate (2.2 compared to 2.6) this season than Laken Tomlinson.

Breakout player in the second half - Jason Verrett/Arik Armstead

The impact Armstead has on the defense is mind-boggling. The 49ers' advanced metrics go from slightly above average to top-3 across the board. And those metrics don’t tell the whole story, as Armstead is one of the best run defenders in the NFL.

He doesn’t just hold his ground against double teams; Armstead beats them. You can listen to the explanation for why it’s Verrett in the entire episode below: