Pro Football Focus tabs this player as 49ers' biggest unsung hero

Entering a contract year, one might suspect Deommodore Lenoir to match his quality campaign from a year ago.
San Francisco 49ers cornerback Deommodore Lenoir (2)
San Francisco 49ers cornerback Deommodore Lenoir (2) / Lachlan Cunningham/GettyImages

Deommodore Lenoir has quietly turned into one of the 49ers' best defensive backs, and that earned him some recognition from Pro Football Focus.

The San Francisco 49ers have been known to identify, select and develop high-quality players late in the NFL Draft.

2021 is a prime example of these efforts.

While that year's draft is stained by the lucrative trade-up to land quarterback Trey Lance at No. 3 overall, a move that ultimately failed to identify a franchise cornerstone, subsequent picks did turn out to benefit general manager John Lynch and Co.

Including cornerback Deommodore Lenoir, selected in Round 5.

As is the case with many young defensive backs, it took a little while for Lenoir to find his footing at the NFL level. In his second season, though, Lenoir was regularly seeing the field and emerging as a reliable contributor within the Niners' secondary.

In 2023, he was a key component, starting at nickel cornerback after San Francisco failed to get much of anything out of veteran corner Isaiah Oliver early in the year. By the regular season's end, Lenoir had registered 84 tackles, 10 pass breakups and three interceptions over 17 starts.

But Lenoir isn't generally viewed as one of the 49ers' top stars.

Pro Football Focus identifies Deommodore Lenoir as 49ers' most underrated player

The folks over at Pro Football Focus combed through all 32 teams and identified their most underrated player on the roster.

PFF's pick for the Niners? Lenoir.

Here's what PFF's Zoltán Buday had to say about the selection for San Francisco:

"While Lenoir, a former fifth-round pick, became a starter in 2022, his true breakout came in 2023 in his third season. After recording a 60.9 PFF overall grade in 2022, Lenoir improved to 75.8 in 2023, which ranked 23rd at the position. He also lowered his passer rating allowed number from 89.0 in 2022 to 75.7 this past season."

While PFF's grades can be met with some scrutiny, it's hard to argue that Lenoir is anything but a very solid cornerback who doesn't get the recognition on the national level. When fans think of the 49ers' defensive backfield, it's easy to look at someone like All-Pro corner Charvarius Ward.

Lenoir should be in that discussion, too.

He's entering a contract year in 2024, too, which should provide even more motivation for another high-caliber effort. While the Niners will be hard-pressed to retain his services, knowing he'll be seeking a substantial deal in a year's time, there might be some solace in knowing that nickel corners tend to command less money than boundary cornerbacks.

That could potentially make Lenoir affordable enough to re-sign.

Unless he has yet another outstanding campaign and prices himself out of San Francisco's comfort range.

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