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The 49ers may not have put together a particularly splashy offseason, but they could see some improvement on their roster by way of first-time Pro Bowl berths.
San Francisco had a slew of players head 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 to the initial roster. Left guard Laken Tomlinson eventually made it in as well.
While last year’s Pro Bowlers could certainly go again this season, there are seven players on this year’s roster that stand out as candidates to go to a Pro Bowl for the first time in 2022:
DT Arik Armstead
Armstead finished the 2021 season playing the best football of his career. He racked up 39 of his 54 pressures from Week 13 through the NFC championship game. In that same span he notched 8.0 of his 10.0 sacks. Armstead has always been a more effective pass rusher from the interior and this year he’ll get more chances to do so alongside an edge group that might be the best the 49ers have had over the last five years.
CB Emmanuel Moseley
The chaos of the 49ers’ secondary last year made it hard to distinguish who was good and who wasn’t in that group. Moseley was quietly putting together the best season of his career though. Quarterbacks completed 60.8 percent of their throws at Moseley, but he allowed only one touchdown and pulled 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 eliminates some of the very low lows he had last year, Moseley might find his way into the conversation as one of the league’s top CBs on what should be a good 49ers defense.
WR Brandon Aiyuk
2021 was a weird year for Aiyuk. Despite a rocky start that led some to wonder if he was going down the Dante Pettis career path, Aiyuk finished the year very strong. If we extrapolate his final 11 games out over a full season, he was on pace for 73 catches, 1,128 yards and six touchdowns. Perhaps the 49ers’ rushing offense takes center stage this season and receiving numbers are deflated some. There’s also a chance Aiyuk and Trey Lance have good chemistry though and the former first-round pick soars into a Pro Bowl berth.
LB Azeez Al-Shaair
A couple things need to happen for Al-Shaair to get 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 has to make some improvements in coverage and with his missed tackles. If Al-Shaair emerges as an effective pass defender in the middle of the field, earns the starting Will LB job and continuing to rack up tackles at the rate he did last season (102 in 13 games), he’ll be hard to ignore for Pro Bowl voters.
LB Dre Greenlaw
Greenlaw is in a similar spot to Al-Shaair. He has to be healthy and grab the starting WLB job out of camp. From there it’s about posting the box score stats like tackles, forced fumbles and interceptions that help him stand out. Playing alongside Fred Warner will help too since there are always eyes on No. 54. There’s room for another playmaking linebacker to enter the national conversation in San Francisco.
RB Elijah Mitchell
Mitchell is in an interesting spot. He’s coming off an impressive rookie campaign where he piled up 963 rushing yards in 11 games. He missed action in three separate stints last year and still managed to put together an outstanding first-year campaign. Health is key No. 1 to his Pro Bowl path, but key No. 2 is volume. He has to get touches and be looked at as the team’s lead back. There are a ton of options to cut into his carries, 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 who could wind up splitting time with Mitchell. If he’s healthy and stays in the 18-20 carries per game range though, 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 rapidly fulfills the mountain of promise that came with him to the Bay Area from North Dakota State, then he would certainly be a Pro Bowler. Given the number of players that skip the game, he may not even need to be particularly great to go. If he’s just good and the 49ers are playoff-bound we could see Lance land in a Pro Bowl during his first year as a starter.