Who will breakout for the 49ers in 2022?


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With a number of free agents departing elsewhere, the San Francisco 49ers have encountered some significant roster turnover ahead of the 2022 NFL season.

However, turnover isn’t necessarily detrimental to a roster, as it provides opportunities for players to potentially breakout, especially younger players heading into their third and fourth seasons.

With a tantalizing roster on both offense and defense, who are those breakout players for the 49ers in 2022?

Offense: WR Brandon Aiyuk

Aiyuk, 23, is heading into his third NFL season, earmarking him within the criteria specified above for breakout players.

The Arizona State product has also shown consistent improvement at the NFL level after overcoming certain obstacles.

In his rookie campaign, Aiyuk flashed during an injury-ravaged season for the 49ers, catching 60 passes for 748 yards and five touchdowns, although he played in just 12 games due to various injuries and COVID-19.

In his sophomore season, Aiyuk had a slow start to the season, catching for just 96 yards within his first six games before exploding over the second half of the season, finishing with 730 yards from Week 8-18.

In fact, had Aiyuk maintained his production over both seasons through an entire season, the third-year receiver would’ve had multiple 1000-yard seasons.

If we take Aiyuk’s rookie season production over an entire season, he would’ve caught 85 receptions for 1,060 yards and seven touchdowns.

Similarly, if we take Aiyuk’s sophomore season production from Week 8-18 over an entire season, he would’ve caught 73 passes for 1,128 yards and seven touchdowns.

What’s changed for the shifty receiver?

Quarterback Trey Lance now replaces former incumbent Jimmy Garoppolo as the starter, and in his small sample size, the 22-year old signal-caller has showcased an ability to make throws to all facets of the field, as well as all depths of the field , which should complement Aiyuk’s skillset.

Aiyuk has already begun developing a rapport with Lance, having worked out with him in Southern California earlier this offseason prior to the duo reporting for organized team activities(OTAs) last week.

2. DT Javon Kinlaw

Who else could it be?

Former first-round pick Javon Kinlaw is entering his third NFL season, where he faces heavy expectations following the early success of his peers who were drafted behind him, such as Tampa Bay’s Tristan Wirfs and Dallas’s Ceedee Lamb.

However, Kinlaw hasn’t had the opportunity to truly showcase his full arsenal, as his first season was marred by a unique offseason due to COVID, and his second season was cut short due to injury.

Additionally, Kinlaw played without several key defensive players in 2020, as both defensive linemen Nick Bosa and Solomon Thomas tore their ACLs in Week 2, forcing Arik Armstead to primarily stay on the edge.

With Armstead likely relegated to an interior defensive lineman role, Kinlaw will be surrounded by the best talent of his career, as San Francisco arguably has their strongest defensive line of the Shanahan-Lynch era.

Kinlaw’s athletic traits and size made him an intriguing draft prospect in 2020, and if he can continue being an effective run defender while playing a significant amount, he would be a step in the right direction.

The opinions within this article are those of the writer and, while just as important, are not necessarily those of the site as a whole.

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