Twenty-two positions in due time will be decided in the Bay Area once the San Francisco 49ers reunite on the football field.
But there are those who once held a starting position who will aim to reclaim their spot in the depth chart — no matter how crowded things look at their position on the ‘Niners.
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Matt Maiocco and Jennifer Lee Chan of NBC Sports Bay Area compiled their listings of “under the radar impact players” on Monday, June 20, for the 2022 season, saying “the 49ers have several players they’ll need to be impactful in order to string together another deep playoff run.”
Both have listed seven in this particular category, referring to them as “less conspicuous choices.” However, one of their choices was a former starter who at one time, scored 12 touchdowns in a span of seven starts.
‘Under the Radar’ Type is Part of Deep Backfield
Fifth-year veteran Jeff Wilson earned the label of “under the radar” type for the 49ers heading into the 2022 season.
Wilson has proven to be effective in the past. In 2020, he averaged 4.8 yards per carry (a career-high) and scored seven rushing touchdowns while part of a rotation of backs. Included in those starts? Some receiving versatility on his end, with three more scores through the air.
The 26-year-old, however, was forced to have a late start with the 49ers in 2021. The 6-foot, 194-pound back endured a meniscus tear in his right knee after a weight lifting session with his team. The injury would sideline him for the first eight games of the season. The games Wilson missed were during the time the 49ers began the season slow with their 3-5 start.
Wilson began to show shades of his 2020 form versus eventual AFC champion the Cincinnati Bengals — averaging 4.31 yards per carry in the road overtime win on December 12, 2021. Then, he reemerged as the bell cow back by carrying the ball 21 times for 110 yards and scoring once in the 31-13 romp of the Atlanta Falcons the subsequent week.
Unfortunately, he then ended his season with a low ankle sprain sustained during the NFC Championship game loss to the Los Angeles Rams. Now, he’s returning to S.F. but this time with a new-look backfield.
What Wilson is Walking Into & What Was Said
Even with his knee injury sidelining him for the first portion of the season, Wilson managed to squeeze in double digit games.
“Wilson appeared in 11 games for the 49ers in 2021 after recovering from knee injury he sustained during the offseason. The 26-year-old carried the ball 79 times for 294 yards and two touchdowns but did not seem like the same player he was in 2020 when he averaged 4.8 yards per carry and scored seven times,” Chan wrote.
Where do things stand now health wise for Wilson now that mandatory minicamp wrapped up?
“Now further removed the injury, the former undrafted free agent has more spring in his step and was seen with the first team frequently during the offseason program,” Chan said. “Wilson was not only taking handoffs out of the backfield from Trey Lance but also catching passes from the young quarterback.”
This time, there’s no Raheem Mostert or Trenton Cannon with Wilson — who were splitting reps with him. However, last season’s top rusher Elijah Mitchell is back. So is third rounder Trey Sermon. And, Tyrion Davis-Price is anticipated to battle for some early carries after being taken in the third round of the 2022 draft.
Chan and Maiocco, though, still have high hopes for Wilson to be an impact option on the 49ers.
“Wilson could be a key part of the 49ers offense along with fellow running backs Elijah Mitchell, Trey Sermon, JaMycal Hasty, and rookies Ty Davis Price and Jordan Mason.”