5 dark-horse 49ers who could slip into Pro Bowl voting in 2022

Laken Tomlinson #75 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Laken Tomlinson #75 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images) /
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Jimmie Ward, San Francisco 49ers
Jimmie Ward #1 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images) /

The 49ers have some clear-cut candidates for making the Pro Bowl at the end of the season, but these less-known players could get in, too.

The San Francisco 49ers have four or five shoo-in Pro Bowl players on the roster in 2021.

EDGE Nick Bosa, wide receiver Deebo Samuel, tight end George Kittle and left tackle Trent Williams should all be there. And fullback Kyle Juszczyk gets there almost by default, given the lack of competition at his position.

Yet it’s important to remember the initial Pro Bowl roster is essentially a popularity contest, voted upon by the fans with no real limit how many times they can vote. And while most of the players above have some sort of name recognition, it’s always difficult for less-known players to receive the kind of praise they otherwise should deserve.

Until the alternates start getting voted in. That’s where things get interesting.

After not being played a year ago, the 2022 Pro Bowl will kick off on Feb. 6 from Las Vegas, Nevada. And these five underappreciated Niners players could (and potentially should) be receiving some Pro Bowl recognition for their work in 2021.

49ers Dark-Horse Pro Bowler No. 5: Safety Jimmie Ward

A national fanbase and media might not be paying attention to free safety Jimmie Ward, but San Francisco fans clearly understand the team’s defense is vastly better with Ward in the fray than without him.

Having taken on a bigger leadership role this season, Ward is a massive reason why the 49ers defense still ranks fifth best in fewest passing yards allowed (2,772) despite having some serious deficiencies at cornerback. Ward, who has 61 tackles on the season and two interceptions, might not be at the very top, statistically, among all safeties.

Yet Pro Football Focus is recognizing his efforts, giving him an 80.2 overall grade on the year, tied for sixth best among safeties who have played at least 50 percent of the team’s defensive snaps, and his 32.0 passer rating allowed when targeted is better than anyone else ranked above him.

Ward, who has never been named to the Pro Bowl, is certainly deserving this season and hasn’t received anywhere near the credit he should.