49ers 2019 ‘Who Is?’ series: Linebacker Azeez Al-Shaair

BOCA RATON, FL - SEPTEMBER 11: Azeez Al-Shaair #28 of the Florida Atlantic Owls looks on during a game against the Miami Hurricanes at FAU Stadium on September 11, 2015 in Boca Raton, Florida. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
BOCA RATON, FL - SEPTEMBER 11: Azeez Al-Shaair #28 of the Florida Atlantic Owls looks on during a game against the Miami Hurricanes at FAU Stadium on September 11, 2015 in Boca Raton, Florida. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images) /

Niner Noise kicks off our annual “Who Is?” series on San Francisco 49ers players, looking at undrafted linebacker Azeez Al-Shaair and whether or not he makes the squad in 2019.

It’s that time of year again, when Niner Noise takes an in-depth look at the San Francisco 49ers‘ 90-man offseason roster, breaking down each player in our annual “Who Is?” series we’ve been running since, well… for some time now.

The first player on our list is former Florida Atlantic linebacker Azeez Al-Shaair, who went undrafted during the 2019 NFL Draft and found his way to the Niners by the way of undrafted free agency.

A collegiate tackling machine between 2016 and 2017, Al-Shaair suffered a torn ACL and MCL his senior season, which limited him to just six games.

Still, the remaining numbers are impressive despite the setback:

Azeez Al-Shaair Defense & Fumbles Table
2015Florida AtlanticCUSAFRLB125044947.01.500021
2016Florida AtlanticCUSASOLB12565611211.02.013030.0100
*2017Florida AtlanticCUSAJRLB13717514610.02.500040
2018Florida AtlanticCUSASRLB62419433.01.500000
CareerFlorida Atlantic20119439531.07.513030.0161

Provided by CFB at Sports Reference: View Original Table
Generated 5/6/2019.

Al-Shaair had a long, tough road to the NFL ranks, even enduring a house fire back in 2012, from which his family is still recovering.

San Francisco is giving him a chance. And if he’s able to fully recover from his knee injury, there’s a decent chance he might be able to hang around for a while.

So, what kind of player are the Niners looking at in Al-Shaair? Let’s take a look.

Azeez Al-Shaair’s Strengths

Al-Shaair might be a bit undersized for a prototypical inside linebacker, coming in at 6-foot-1 and 234 pounds.

The good thing, though, is it didn’t show up on tape:

Al-Shaair, as indicated by his high tackling numbers from 2016 and 2017, is one of those players frequently around the ball — an ideal trait for an inside linebacker. He has an innate ability to shed blockers and get out of crowds, finding opposing ball carriers and bringing them down with sound tackling technique.

In most cases, Al-Shaair is strong against the run, using a solid sideline-to-sideline approach with the ability to diagnose running plays in front of him. Rarely will he be caught out of position.

Azeez Al-Shaair’s Weaknesses

Well, there’s the knee injury. Players, who rely a lot on sideline-to-sideline skills, can often take a long time to recover from such a setback.

It’s anyone’s guess whether or not Al-Shaair will get back to that level of play after such a serious setback. The good news, though, is he’s young enough for his body to recover adequately, hopefully.

That said, Al-Shaair isn’t exactly the best option in coverage. While his tackling numbers in college were high, he was often susceptible to giving up chunk yardage and being forced to react after some significant gains instead of sticking with his man and eliminating or discouraging the pass attempt in his direction.

Al-Shaair’s size could also work against him at the pro level, meaning he’ll have a more difficult time shedding blocks and working out of traffic than he did at FAU.

Chances of Making the 49ers’ 53-Man Roster

The Niners do have some depth concerns at inside linebacker, particularly with Kwon Alexander also coming off a torn ACL in 2018. Depth linebackers Malcolm Smith, Dre Greenlaw and David Mayo are likely favorites to plug the gap, meaning Al-Shaair will have an uphill struggle to crack the 53-man roster this season.

As is the case with most undrafted rookies, however, the chances of supplying depth will largely be contingent on Al-Shaair’s abilities to contribute on special teams. The good news here is Al-Shaair’s strengths against the run could translate well over to this facet of the game.

If he’s fully recovered, however.

Al-Shaair is still recovering from that 2018 knee injury, which could keep him out of the oh-so-valuable minicamp, OTA and training camp sessions before the regular season. Those are important for all players, but especially rookies.

What could likely wind up being the case is San Francisco stashing Al-Shaair on the non-football injury list, likely redshirting him for his rookie year, while hoping there’s something to develop in 2020.

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That might end up being the linebacker’s best option for this upcoming season.