The San Francisco 49ers received some excellent play from many players you’d expect in 2019, but there were plenty of unsung and unlikely heroes, too. Here are five of them.
Like 2017 and 2018, the 2019 San Francisco 49ers had to deal with plenty of injuries and attrition over the course of the regular season.
Unlike 2017 and 2018, the 2019 Niners were able to absorb those injuries over the course of the year to the tune of a 13-3 regular-season record, finishing with the NFC West crown and the No. 1 seed in the conference. It’s a testament to the work put in by head coach Kyle Shanahan and general manager John Lynch.
There were plenty of reserve and fill-in players who helped make up for the high number of injuries. There were also a number of less-known players who seemingly came out of nowhere to assume important roles, offer key contributions and might have been just as important to San Francisco’s playoff positioning as the names you’d regularly expect.
So, while they don’t necessarily get the attention as guys like quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, tight end George Kittle or cornerback Richard Sherman, here are five players who deserve a ton of credit for all that went right in 2019.
No. 5: Linebacker Mark Nzeocha
He made a big play in the 49ers’ divisional-round win over the Minnesota Vikings, which helped another player on this list recover a muffed punt, and that should have reminded fans just how solid special teams ace Mark Nzeocha has been this season.
Oh, and he also had an interception during the regular season, too.
But most of his work was on special teams. And while the stat sheet doesn’t show off a lot, just two tackles over the year, Pro Football Focus thought his efforts on special teams were more than noteworthy. According to their metrics, Nzeocha finished with an elite-level 90.0 special teams grade on the season.
San Francisco has liked Nzeocha for some time now, yet he rarely received any attention during his 16 games played over the course of 2019.
Perhaps he should.