The 49ers have had well-known players playing at a high level in 2021, but these five under-the-radar players should be receiving more attention.
A 3-4 team nearly halfway through the regular season shouldn’t have a lot to brag about, but the San Francisco 49ers actually have had some pretty spectacular play from a number of their key contributors this season.
Wide receiver Deebo Samuel continues to pull in receiving yards at a torrid pace, ranking No. 2 in the league in this category with 819 yards despite playing one fewer game than the others in the top five.
Nearly as impressive has been the play from EDGE Nick Bosa, who currently boasts a team-leading seven sacks despite a good chunk of his defensive linemates dealing with injuries, resulting in him facing more than his share of double-teams.
It’s easy to tout those two players, though. There are plenty of others who have performed awfully well this season but simply aren’t getting the recognition they deserve.
Especially these five.
No. 5: 49ers Linebacker Azeez Al-Shaair
It’s weird to think it, but the Niners sorely missed third-year linebacker Azeez Al-Shaair in their Week 8 win over the Chicago Bears, which did see rookie quarterback Justin Fields make good use of his legs and tight ends to take advantage of San Francisco’s defense.
Al-Shaair, who was out that game with a concussion, has been filling in admirably for No. 2 linebacker Dre Greenlaw, whose Week 1 groin injury has kept him out of the year ever since.
And while that might have prompted depth problems for the 49ers, Al-Shaair has certainly risen to the occasion, currently ranked second in team tackles with 43 behind the leader, fellow linebacker Fred Warner, despite playing one less game because of the injury.
On top of that, Pro Football Focus has recognized Al-Shaair’s ascent with a respectable 62.4 overall grade this season, surely higher than what many would have anticipated for a third-string linebacker.
Al-Shaair’s ascent may prompt the Niners to make some tough decisions this offseason, particularly with him being a restricted free agent and Greenlaw still under contract on the cheap.
For now, though, Al-Shaair has been a small but noticeable positive.