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Three 49ers Players Who Could Surprise In 2022

The 49ers have some new faces as well as players that will take on a bigger role for the team this season. Among the names on the roster, which three could be the biggest surprises in 2022?

The San Francisco 49ers made the playoffs last year. More than that, they made a strong push into the NFC Championship Game where they would lose to the eventual Super Bowl Champion Los Angeles Rams. This season, there are a number of new faces for the team, as well as players that could take on a larger, impact role for the team. Here are three Niners who could surprise in 2022:

Three 49ers Players That Could Be A Surprise In 2022

Talanoa Hufanga, Safety

The former USC Trojan is entering his second season with the 49ers and is penciled in on the depth chart to replace former 49er Jaquiski Tartt as the starting strong safety this year. Primarily serving as a depth piece in his rookie season, Hufanga totaled 32 total tackles and two pass deflections in 15 games with three starts in 2021.

While Hufanga has shown good instincts and the ability to be good in run support situations, the question revolving around his game is his coverage ability. The 2021 fifth-round pick allowed 14 catches for 205 yards and a passer rating of 114.1 on 24 targets last season. The 49ers however, must expect a leap forward in production from Hufanga considering they decided to not prioritize addressing the safety position during the draft and free agency.

While the 23-year-old safety doesn’t have much starting experience in the NFL, perhaps the addition of cornerback Charvarius Ward will take pressure off the safeties and the rest of the secondary to the point where Hufanga doesn’t need to be necessarily great to be an impactful starter on what is an already stacked defense.

Talanoa Hufanga welcomes rookie Tyler Goodson to the NFL with a big time hit. #49ers — Coach Yac 🗣 (@Coach_Yac) August 13, 2022

Members of the Niners’ coaching staff have praised Hufanga for his work ethic and confidence to be more vocal as a leader amongst his teammates. The confidence the organization has shown to have in him seems promising for the youngster. Whatever specific improvements and leadership qualities they see in Hufanga will be on full display as the season starts

Danny Gray, Wide Receiver

The 49ers selected speedy wideout Danny Gray in the third round of this year’s NFL Draft. Gray who ran a 4.33-second 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine wasted no time showing off that speed as he connected with Lance for a 76-yard touchdown in the first preseason game this year against Green Bay. Gray also beat veteran cornerback Patrick Peterson for a long touchdown during a joint practice with the Minnesota Vikings the following week.

Is this the Packers preseason secondary? Trey Lance deep TD pass to Danny Gray, who beat CB Patrick Peterson. #49ers — Eric Branch (@Eric_Branch) August 17, 2022

Jauan Jennings seemed to lock up the third spot on the wideout depth chart late last season and the 49ers also added wideout Ray-Ray McCloud III who should also serve as their kick returner this season. However, Jennings has struggled with drops and Gray continues to shine throughout camp. You could argue the speedster could’ve been considered the fifth receiver on the depth chart when he was drafted, but could the rookie be San Francisco’s third wide receiver? With the speed to be a scoring threat in nearly any play, it’s very possible.

Javon Kinlaw, Defensive Tackle

For the former first-round pick the question hasn’t necessarily been about his play, but rather if he can stay on the field.

Kinlaw has dealt with a lingering injury in his knee for a while but has looked very good and healthy throughout the preseason. The 24-year-old underwent ACL reconstruction surgery last year which “solved the problem” in his knee.

In 2020, San Francisco traded DT Deforest Buckner to the Indianapolis Colts which lead to the Niners selecting Javon Kinlaw in the NFL Draft to hopefully replace the pro bowler. Since then it has been hard to tell whether he will be able to do so because he simply hasn’t played enough.

In 18 appearances during his first two seasons in the league, Kinlaw has totaled 41 tackles with three TFLs and five QB hits. Now healthy, 2022 could potentially be Javon’s breakout season with the Niners. This would be very convenient timing considering defensive tackle DJ Jones signed with the Denver Broncos in free agency after a good season in San Francisco in 2021.

Javon Kinlaw was picked in the first round for a reason. The talent and potential are there. If he truly stays healthy this season, the 49ers’ defensive front could challenge the production of the 2019 defense.

Kinlaw up the middle for the sack 😤 — 49ers on NBCS (@NBCS49ers) August 20, 2022

There are numerous players on the Niners this year who could break out and surprise everybody. It seems almost every year San Francisco has a new diamond in the rough, but these three are definitely worth keeping an eye on.



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