The 49ers possess plenty of star power entering 2022, yet there are some under-the-radar players, too, who’ll also make a key difference this season.
It’s pretty simple to determine which teams will be good in any given season. Those teams with plenty of star power on both sides of the ball typically wind up being the best teams, especially if they have an elite quarterback.
The San Francisco 49ers don’t know if they have an elite quarterback, Trey Lance, just yet. But they do have plenty of star power and blue-chip talent. Pro Bowlers like EDGE Nick Bosa, left tackle Trent Williams, linebacker Fred Warner, wide receiver Deebo Samuel and tight end George Kittle help highlight the cast.
But what about the less-known gems?
A player unknown outside a team’s fanbase can be almost as vital, and the Niners are fortunate enough to have a few players who aren’t exactly being talked about enough on the national stage as they get ready for training camp and the subsequent 2022 season.
So, with training camp just days away, let’s list four of those best-kept secrets who are poised to make a significant impact this year.
49ers best-kept secret No. 4: LB Azeez Al-Shaair
In 2021, San Francisco fans got a full introduction to then third-year pro linebacker Azeez Al-Shaair, who was tasked to fill in a starting role after fellow backer Dre Greenlaw was knocked out for almost the entirety of the year with a groin injury suffered in Week 1.
And while Greenlaw eventually returned late in the season, there was a strong argument Al-Shaair was the better option to start.
Al-Shaair, the former undrafted free agent, likely enters 2022 behind both Warner and Greenlaw on the depth chart. But that shouldn’t overshadow the fact the former ranked second in tackles (107) behind only Warner but had more tackles for a loss (nine), more pass breakups (five) and more sacks (two) than his All-Pro counterpart.
Despite Al-Shaair being the third option on the depth chart, the 49ers still rotate their linebackers regularly. So, should he have yet another strong season on the coattails of last year, Al-Shaair will help round out what Pro Football Focus regarded as the best linebacker corps in the NFL entering 2022.