San Francisco 49ers: 3 players who exceed expectations in 2020

Tarvarius Moore #33 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Tarvarius Moore #33 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images) /
2 of 4
Tarvarius Moore, 49ers
Tarvarius Moore #33 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images) /

No. 3: 49ers Defensive Back Tarvarius Moore

It can take a couple of years for defensive backs to fully acclimate to life at the NFL level. Look no further than the 49ers’ starting free safety, Jimmie Ward, who went through his own growing pains the first few years in the league before emerging as a high-quality starter.

Third-year pro Tarvarius Moore is in a similar situation, also like Ward in that the Niners asked him to play a variety of roles early in his own career.

But Moore seems to have found a home as Ward’s primary backup, as well as a reserve option for boundary cornerback where he was seen as an option during his rookie season. Yet the reason why Moore could be in line for a breakout 2020 campaign is due to the league’s growing use of “big nickel” defensive packages.

For the football novice, this is a nickel-type package, only swapping out the traditionally smaller nickel defensive back for a rangier, bigger safety to account for faster and more athletic running backs and tight ends on receiving routes.

Moore already showed noticeable improvement last year, increasing his Pro Football Focus grade from 52.1 in 2018 to a respectable 64.7 the following season, even giving San Francisco fans hope of sealing victory in Super Bowl LIV with a late fourth-quarter interception off the hands of Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes.

We won’t go into what happened afterward, but Moore’s play there suggests the Niners envision the former third-round pick playing a crucial role in 2020.

If he seizes it, Moore could be pegged as a vital commodity in the coming years.