49ers roster: 5 players who must make massive leap in 2022

Trey Lance #5 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
Trey Lance #5 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images) /
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Trey Sermon, San Francisco 49ers
San Francisco 49ers running back Trey Sermon (28) Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports /

The 49ers roster wasn’t comprised of too many underperformers and unknowns last season, yet these five still have to take the ‘big next step’ in 2022.

One of the key reasons why good teams stay good on a year-to-year basis is because they have an innate ability to regularly turn their roster over and develop younger players properly into the roles where they can take over for aging, increasingly expensive veterans.

It’s far from a perfect process, and even the most successful teams in this regard will have players fall by the wayside in terms of their development.

For the San Francisco 49ers, whose roster heading into 2022 remains mostly intact aside from one key position we’ll get to, a number of either underperforming or less-featured players from last season nevertheless need to assume a greater role on the team this upcoming season.

Let’s take a look at five such players who’ll have to take that massive leap from their play and roles last season into their 2022 campaigns.

49ers roster player No. 5: Running back Trey Sermon

The emergence of 2021 sixth-round rookie NFL Draft pick Elijah Mitchell as a featured tailback in the Niners offense last season helped alleviate the fact the team’s third-round pick, running back Trey Sermon, essentially turned into an afterthought over the bulk of the year.

Aside from his two starts, Weeks 3 and 4 in the wake of Mitchell being out with an injury and veteran tailback Raheem Mostert being lost for the year with a knee injury, Sermon scantly saw the field and only managed 167 rush yards and a touchdown over a mere 41 carries.

It’s far too soon to relegate Sermon to the “bust” category, but that’ll certainly be a question mark entering 2022.

Fortunately, the context behind Sermon’s projected role should improve next season. While he might be behind Mitchell on next year’s depth chart, Mostert is likely gone as a free agent, and fellow running back Jeff Wilson Jr. is also a restricted free agent, questionable as to whether or not San Francisco will retain him.

The depth chart will be thinned out, yes. But it’ll ultimately be up to Sermon to both solidify his role on the offense and justify the team’s notable draft investment.