The 49ers’ ‘Secret Superstar’ for 2022 Unveiled by Analyst


Getty Members of the 49ers celebrate a defensive touchdown on November 15, 2021 versus the Rams.

Star power has returned to the SAP Performance Center in front of the San Francisco 49ers faithful.

While the 49ers reported back for 2022 training camp on Tuesday, July 26, Wednesday was the day the fans could sit and watch the 49ers practice:

ALL the latest 49ers news straight to your inbox! Join the Heavy on 49ers newsletter here!

Join Heavy on 49ers!

This 2022 version of the 49ers will feature a bevy of stars on the roster, some highly ranked by national analytics website Pro Football Focus. But there are also 49ers who as they pointed “fly under the radar” but are “quietly performing well to less acclaim.”

So who represents the 49ers as their “secret superstar?” Sam Monson of PFF revealed that name on Wednesday morning.

49ers Veteran & Captain Labeled ‘Secret Superstar’

The “secret superstar” title from PFF was given to safety Jimmie Ward.

That’s right — the longtime veteran lauded for his tackling and coverage skills and who racked up a career-best 77 tackles, two interceptions (both versus the Super Bowl champion Los Angeles Rams) and broke up six passes earned the moniker from PFF.

“Finding a secret superstar for the 49ers is challenging, and Ward isn’t exactly an unknown quantity, but he is a consistently productive part of that defense despite the attention typically shifting elsewhere,” Monson explained. “Ward has earned an overall PFF grade of at least 73.5 in each of the past three seasons, with 13 pass breakups over that time despite a lack of interceptions.”

What Ward Brings That’s ‘Important’

Sure, Ward has never put together a season where he’s snatched three interceptions or more, let alone established a campaign that saw him surpass the 80 tackles mark per Pro Football Reference.

Some pundits and fans may argue that Ward benefits from having a loaded front seven right in front of him with names like Nick Bosa and Arik Armstead as the stud trench penetrators followed by a deep rotation of ends and tackles wrecking havoc. Ward also plays in a defense featuring fast and cerebral linebackers starting with All-Pro Fred Warner followed by quick ‘backers in Dre Greenlaw and Azeez Al-Shaair.

Ward’s numbers may not appeal to Pro Bowl voters. But his presence in the 49ers’ secondary has proven to be valuable when the 49ers need someone lining up at multiple spots.

“Ward has lined up in the slot at least 200 times in each of the past two years in addition to free and strong safety, bringing important versatility to the secondary,” Monson writes.

Ward additionally has proven to provide an extra line of scrimmage crasher from his safety spot — earning high marks in his ability to snuff out the run.

In tracing back to last season, Ward used his nose for the football to put together these new top marks in the era of PFF analytics: A 90.2 run-defense grade and 91.3 tackling grade, both representing career-high marks by the analytics site.

But again, it’s versus the pass where Ward is often lauded the most in. Per PFF, Ward was targeted five times in only three games last season. He allowed just 13 receiving yards in coverage and delivered three games of surrendering 12 yards his side.

But while Ward was given the “secret superstar” title, he has this plan for the upcoming season: Improving his overall rating here by delivering a breakout season:

Read More