Why PFF lists Lenoir as 49ers' most underrated player

Why PFF lists Lenoir as 49ers' most underrated player originally appeared on NBC Sports Bay Area

It’s easy to forget about lesser-known studs when evaluating the 49ers' roster.

Even NFL fans who don’t closely follow San Francisco know it boasts some iteration of big names such as these listed: Brock Purdy, Christian McCaffrey, Fred Warner, Brandon Aiyuk, Nick Bosa, George Kittle, Deebo Samuel, Trent Williams, Kyle Juszczyk and Charvarius Ward.

But behind the wall of superstardom, who sticks out as the 49ers’ most underrated player?

Zoltán Buday of Pro Football Focus gave his answer on Monday: cornerback Deommodore Lenoir.

“While Lenoir, a former fifth-round pick, became a starter in 2022, his true breakout came in 2023 in his third season,” wrote Buday. “After recording a 60.9 PFF overall grade in 2022, Lenoir improved to 75.8 in 2023, which ranked 23rd at the position. He also lowered his passer rating allowed number from 89.0 in 2022 to 75.7 this past season.”

Since being selected 172nd by the 49ers in the 2021 NFL Draft, Lenoir, as Buday noted, has improved year after year.

He started just two of 13 games as a rookie and only had 17 total tackles with two passes defended. But since the start of the 2022 NFL season, Lenoir has emerged as a reliable starter for San Francisco, posting 163 total tackles, 15 PDs and four interceptions.

Lenoir, 24, now is a key piece of the San Francisco defense that just finished third in the NFL in points allowed (17.5) and fourth in total takeaways (28) before reaching Super Bowl LVIII.

PFF acknowledging Lenoir’s talent adds up for the Oregon product, who notoriously is versatile and elite on the biggest stages.

“We used to call him 'Bump and Run,' ” is how New York Giants star Kayvon Thibodeaux described his Oregon teammate Lenior to NBC Sports Bay Area's Jennifer Lee Chan in February. “He’s a guy who can play man [coverage], zone [coverage]. He can cover anybody. He can fit the run. He’s been doing it right, so I’m happy [for] him…”

Lenoir has been on an upward trajectory since finding his bearings over the last two seasons. Plus, his NFL playoff stats -- 24 solo tackles and two interceptions over six games -- prove he is the real deal when the lights are brightest.

Expect Lenoir to keep shining during the 2024 NFL season.

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