Since 2013, the 49ers have seen many players who have had an impact without massive praise. Some were late-round draft picks, some were undrafted, and some were reclamation projects.
One name that comes to mind is Jimmie Ward, who was drafted with the 30th overall pick in the 2013 NFL draft. First-round picks are expected to have an impact, but Ward’s path to can be viewed as underrated. Initially miscast as a slot corner, and after some bad injury luck, Ward became a fan favorite.
Mike Iupati was someone who, I felt, was underrated. Again, Iupati was a first-round pick, was selected to three pro bowls, and was named a first-team all-pro in 2012 as a 49er. What makes him underrated, in my mind, is how his supporting cast was filled with high-level talent and future Hall of Famers, which led to him being discussed last. Still, it’s hard to consider an all-pro and pro bowler as underrated.
After a long search, I believe Ahmad Brooks is the most underrated 49er player of the decade. Stay with me, Brooks was drafted by the Cincinnati Bengals in the third round of the 2006 NFL supplement draft.
Brooks joined the 49ers in 2009 and immediately became impactful. In 14 games, Brooks totaled six sacks and QB hits, two passes defended, and four forced fumbles.
Playing with the 49ers from 2009 through 2016, Brooks never had less than five sacks in any year. In 2012 & 2013, Brooks was named second-team all-pro and selected to his only pro bowl in 2013.
When playing next to Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman, you are bound to be underrated. While Brooks was much more of a pass-rusher, he was still listed as a linebacker.
In eight years as a 49er, Brooks totaled 28 passes defended, 51.5 sacks, 335 combined tackles, 266 solo tackles, 71 tackles for loss, 97 QB hits, and 63 AV (approximate value), per Pro Football Reference.
When you consider Brooks’ draft capital, production, and supporting cast, I consider him the most underrated 49er of the past decade.
Let me know who you believe is the most underrated 49er of the past decade in the comments.