5 49ers players who have surprised the most in 2019 so far

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TAMPA, FLORIDA – SEPTEMBER 08: Ahkello Witherspoon #23 of the San Francisco 49ers celebrates after scoring on an interception thrown by Jameis Winston #3 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the fourth quarter of a game at Raymond James Stadium on September 08, 2019 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images)

The San Francisco 49ers have received some standout play from a number of their key players in 2019 so far. But these five have unexpectedly turned heads this season.

Through six weeks of action in 2019, the San Francisco 49ers have fought their way to a perfect 5-0 record while boasting the No. 3 overall scoring offense and the No. 2 scoring defense.

Simply put, 2019 has been awfully nice for head coach Kyle Shanahan and Co.

Many of Shanahan’s top players have performed well this season. Tight end George Kittle, despite not on track to break his already-established single-season record for receiving yards, is doing plenty on the field to wreak havoc against opponents’ defenses. Cornerback Richard Sherman has been even better than last year, while defensive tackle DeForest Buckner looks like his Pro Bowl self.

Three of San Francisco’s newer acquisitions, linebacker Kwon Alexander and edge rushers Dee Ford and Nick Bosa, have been just as good as advertised, if not better.

But what about those players who weren’t expected to be major standouts? They deserve credit for the Niners’ red-hot start, too.

Here are five who have performed well above expectations this season.

 

No. 5: Cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon

He might be out with a sprained foot right now. But third-year cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon has completely turned a page over what was a disastrous 2018 campaign a year ago.

Speaking of last year, Pro Football Focus ranked Witherspoon dead last among 112 qualifiers with a 44.9 overall grade.

This year, Witherspoon has a 77.5 overall mark — 11th best.

Even in an abbreviated season, Witherspoon’s numbers have been great. He already has an interception returned for a touchdown, recorded during the 49ers’ Week 1 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. And his five pass breakups is second on San Francisco’s defense behind Sherman’s six.

For most of 2018, fans and analysts were beginning to think Witherspoon couldn’t be the long-term answer at the position.

So far this year, Witherspoon has shown he is up to the task and then some.

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