49ers roster: 4 players who must dramatically improve in 2022 to avoid going bust

Trey Sermon #28 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
Trey Sermon #28 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images) /
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Deommodore Lenoir. San Francisco 49ers
San Francisco 49ers cornerback Deommodore Lenoir (38) Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports /

Every team has its share of underperforming players, and the 49ers are no exception. Yet these four players have to make drastic improvements in 2022 anyway.

Sometimes it’s easy to criticize San Francisco 49ers general manager John Lynch and his scouting staff for experiencing gaffes and errors with players grabbed either in free agency or the NFL Draft.

Case in point, the Niners passed on quarterbacks Patrick Mahomes and Deshaun Watson in the 2017 NFL Draft to select defensive end Solomon Thomas, who is no longer with the team after four relatively uninspiring years.

Still, San Francisco isn’t alone in its share of gaffes and busts. Every team across the league has a fair share of those, and the 49ers have made up for it by grabbing other top talents, too, such as wide receiver Deebo Samuel, linebacker Fred Warner and running back Elijah Mitchell, none of whom were viewed as elite-level Round 1 talent when they were drafted.

However, none of that should change the notion that other underperforming players need to proverbially “right the ship” and improve from their statuses now, namely if they want to be key impact players for the Niners in the very near future.

Here are four such players who must show some drastic improvement when 2022 rolls along unless they want to be regarded as busts.

No. 4: 49ers Cornerback Deommodore Lenoir

San Francisco drafted three players in Round 5 of the 2022 draft: offensive lineman Jaylon Moore, safety Talanoa Hufanga and cornerback Deommodore Lenoir.

It might be a bit unfair to put Lenoir on this list, as it’s rare to place lofty expectations on day-three draft picks. But in the 49ers’ case, they could potentially lose all but one of their veteran cornerbacks in 2022 to NFL free agency, leaving only Emmanuel Moseley as the player with more than a year’s experience.

Lenoir started off hot, yes, flashing some promise during training camp and the preseason before getting off to a strong start in the regular season, too.

Since then, though, the fact the Niners would rather roll with fill-in corners like Dontae Johnson, Josh Norman and, at least for a time, Dre Kirkpatrick isn’t exactly an endorsement for Lenoir’s long-term success.

Lenoir has been almost exclusively a special teams ace since Week 4 of the 2021 season, only seeing a maximum of 25 snaps in Week 13 because of attrition at the position and getting into the defensive alignment for just three other games after Week 4.

While special teams has its merits, the pressure will be on Lenoir in 2022 to showcase his value to the defensive side of the ball.