The 49ers may not have put together a particularly splashy off-season, but they could see some improvement in their roster by making Pro Bowl berths for the first time.
San Francisco had a slew of players to Orlando for the NFL’s All-Star game last season. Deebo Samuel, Trent Williams, Kyle Juszczyk, George Kittle and Nick Bosa were all named on the first roster. Left guard Laken Tomlinson finally made it.
While last year’s Pro Bowlers could certainly go again this season, this year there are seven players on the roster who stand out as candidates to go to a Pro Bowl for the first time in 2022:
DT Arik Armstead
Armstead finished the 2021 season with the best football of his career. He got 39 of his 54 pressures from Week 13 through the NFC Championship game. During that same period, he notched 8.0 of his 10.0 pockets. Armstead has always been a more effective pass rusher from the outback and this year he gets more opportunities to do that alongside an edge group that possibly the best the 49ers have had the past five years.
CB Emmanuel Moseley
The 49ers’ high school chaos last year made it difficult to distinguish who was good and who was not in that group. However, Moseley was quietly putting together the best season of his career. Quarterbacks completed 60.8 percent of their throws on Moseley, but he allowed only one touchdown and took down one interception with eight pass breakups per Pro Football Focus. QBs had a passer rating of 78.0 when throwing it Moseley’s way. If he finds a few more interceptions and busts out some of the very low lows he had last year, Moseley could find his way into the conversation as one of the league’s top CBs about what a good 49ers defense should be.
WR Brandon Aiyuk
2021 was a weird year for Aiyuk. Despite a rocky start that left some wondering if he would take Dante Pettis’ career path, Aiyuk ended the year very strong. If we extrapolate his last 11 games over an entire season, he was on pace for 73 catches, 1128 yards and six touchdowns. Perhaps the 49ers’ hasty attack will take center stage this season and numbers reception will be a bit drained. However, there’s also a chance that Aiyuk and Trey Lance have good chemistry and the former first round pick rises to a Pro Bowl berth.
LB Azeez Al-Shaar
A few things have to happen before Al-Shaar gets into the Pro Bowl conversation. First he has to play enough. Health and his role could keep him off the field too much to get a nod to the NFL’s All-Star game. Second, he needs to make some improvements in coverage and with his missed tackles. If Al-Shaari emerges as an effective pass defender in the middle of the field, earns the rookie Will LB job and continues to rack up tackles at the pace he did last season (102 in 13 games), he will be hard to ignore for Pro Bowl voters.
LB Dre Greenlaw
Greenlaw is located in a similar place to Al-Shaar. He must be healthy and take the starting WLB job from the camp. From there, it’s all about posting the box score stats like tackles, forced fumbles, and interceptions that help him stand out. Playing alongside Fred Warner will also help, as there’s always an eye for number 54. There’s room for another game-making linebacker to join the national call in San Francisco.
RB Elijah Mitchell
Mitchell is in an interesting place. He is coming off an impressive rookie campaign in which he collected 963 rushing yards in 11 games. Last year, he missed action in three separate stints and still managed to put together an excellent freshman campaign. Health is the number 1 key of his Pro Bowl path, but the number 2 key is volume. He should be touched and seen as the team’s lead. There are a ton of options for cutting into his carriers, and the 49ers may want to limit his workload to keep him healthier. Trey Sermon, Ty Davis-Price and Jeff Wilson Jr. are all options that could end time with Mitchell. However, if he’s healthy and staying within 18-20 carries per game, Mitchell could have a monster year that lands him in the Pro Bowl.
QB Trey Lance
In the world where Lance hits the ground running and very quickly fulfills the mountain of promise that came with him to the Bay Area from the state of North Dakota, he would definitely be a Pro Bowler. Given how many players are skipping the game, he may not even need to be particularly good to handle. If he’s just good and the 49ers are playoff-tied, we could see Lance landing in a Pro Bowl in his first year as a starter.