The 2021 San Francisco 49ers had a very good season by all measures. Bouncing back from what was an injury-riddled season in 2020, the 49ers finished as the 6 seed in the NFC, with a record of 10-7 in the toughest division in the NFL. Although the 49ers are far from a flawless team, they have a lot of young, talented players and without a doubt have a very bright future ahead of them. With that said, let’s hand out some awards to the standout players on the 2021 San Francisco 49ers team.
San Francisco 49ers 2021 Season Awards
Most Valuable Player: WRB Deebo Samuel
This pick should not come as a surprise whatsoever. Deebo Samuel took a step up this season after being injured for the majority of last season. He led the team in touches, total yards, and touchdowns by far. He is incredibly versatile, which opened up masses of opportunities for Kyle Shanahan to scheme him up touches all across the field. Samuel was truly the piece of the puzzle that allowed San Francisco’s offense to explode this season. His versatility kept defenses on their heels and created nightmares for defensive coordinators.
Offensive Player of the Year: LT Trent Williams
Not only did Trent Williams show that he is the best offensive player on the 49ers roster, but in a perfect world, he would be in contention for Offensive Player of the Year of the entire league. Of course, offensive linemen do not win the award in today’s league, but Williams showed that he is far and away the best tackle in the NFL. Williams earned a 98.3 PFF grade, which is far and away the highest grade PFF has ever given to a player in a single season. Williams had an outstanding season by every measure, and if he is able to play at this level for another few years, he will absolutely be a gold-jacket player.
Defensive Player of the Year & Comeback Player of the Year: DE Nick Bosa
This one should come as no surprise. Nick Bosa tore his ACL at the beginning of the 2020 season, yet has not missed a beat since. He finished the season with 15.5 sacks, 4 forced fumbles, and 52 total tackles. Bosa is another player who not only should be the 49ers DPOY and CPOY, but should also be in contention for both those awards at a league-wide level. As with most pass rushers, a lot of his production does not show on the stat sheet. As is evident from watching Bosa on film, he constantly is pressuring the quarterback and creating nightmares for offensive linemen. Bosa has been a key factor for the 49ers defense this season, and is without a doubt worthy of both these awards.
Offensive Rookie of the Year: RB Elijah Mitchell
Elijah Mitchell was a quality prospect coming out of Louisiana last season. Somehow, his elite athleticism and explosiveness went under the radar, and John Lynch was able to select him the sixth round. What makes Mitchell’s campaign all the more impressive is that he beat out a third-round pick, Trey Sermon, for the starting job. Mitchell only played eleven games this season due to injury issues. In these 11 games, he had 207 carries for 963 yards and five touchdowns. This averages out to 4.65 yards per carry, which is an incredible number. Granted, he did have elite run blocking from his offensive line and Shanahan is known for his great rushing offense. However, Mitchell showed agility and explosiveness that make him absolutely worthy of a starting job for the foreseeable future.
Defensive Rookie of the Year: CB Ambry Thomas
Ambry Thomas started off the season incredibly slow, dealing with injuries along with just not playing very well. However, he stepped into action late in the season due to injuries higher on the depth chart and played fairly well. Most notably, Thomas earned a game-ending interception against the Los Angeles Rams to send the 49ers into the playoffs. Overall Thomas’s season was full of ups-and-downs. And he did end up on plenty of receivers’ highlight reels. However, he ultimately did the best he could for what was asked of him, and made a huge play when he needed to. In a rookie class that is thin defensively, Ambry Thomas deserves this award.
Most Improved Player: LB Azeez Al-Shaair
Last but not least, Azeez Al-Shaair has stepped up big time for the 49ers defense and definitely deserves this award. Al-Shaair finished the season with 102 total tackles, two sacks, one forced fumble, one interception and five passes defended. This stat line is a significant improvement from that of Al-Shaair’s 2020 campaign, which was also limited somewhat by injury. Al-Shaair’s role has grown significantly in the 49ers defense, and should only continue to grow from this point on.