Analyst Cynthia Frelund took on the task of identifying the most underappreciated player for each NFL team. For the San Francisco 49ers, that player is an offseason addition—cornerback Charvarius Ward. Frelund used analytics to measure each player’s production and contribution to a team’s overall win total during the 2021 season.
Ward’s contributions last season were for the Kansas City Chiefs. Frelund admits that she typically tries to prioritize players who do not switch teams in the offseason. However, that proved especially challenging this year due to so much free-agent movement, so Ward’s value in this exercise benefits the 49ers.
Other factors like past salary, where the player was drafted, and a lack of NFL honors helped determine who is “underappreciated” in Frelund’s mind. Ward entered the league as an undrafted free agent and has never received Pro Bowl or All-Pro honors.
While Ward signed a three-year deal that will average $13.5 million per season, he still ranks No. 13 (tied with William Jackson of the Washington Commanders, per OverTheCap) among cornerbacks.
“San Francisco’s free-agent pickup boasts an NFL-best 46.9 completion percentage allowed in coverage since 2019, per [Next Gen Stats] (min. 150 targets),” wrote Frelund. “He also had only one penalty called against him last season with Kansas City. Not surprising then that the Niners, who ranked 29th in completion percentage allowed (68.2) and whose DBs were the most penalized in the league last season, pursued the 26-year-old this offseason.”
Ward finished last season with 67 tackles, two tackles for a loss, two interceptions, and 10 passes defensed for the Chiefs. Now, he gets to join a talented defensive unit and a coaching staff that sees a high ceiling in the young cornerback.
“I don’t feel like they lacking in much,” Ward said of the 49ers in March. “I’m going to just bring a lot of energy, a lot of joy, a lot of enthusiasm, just young talent. The coaching staff, they seem happy to have me. I’m happy to be here, and I’m ready to get this thing started.”
Head coach Kyle Shanahan is excited to add Ward to his defense. He praised the cornerback this week.
“He’s as talented of a dude as we’ve had here,” Shanahan shared. “He’s a great guy, loves to work. Doesn’t say a lot. Just goes out and gets his job done, and it seems like he fits in very well.”
Even the offensive players on the team know that having Ward as their teammate will make them better. One 49ers wide receiver admitted to already doing some homework on the cornerback.
“I’m excited not only to go up against him but to have him on our defense and watch him go after receivers,” Brandon Aiyuk admitted. “I’ve already watched him go. I’ve watched a lot of his stuff already so far. I got to play [against] him a little bit last season when we played Kansas City in the preseason game, so I know him a little bit. But definitely excited to have him on our team. Definitely excited to get better going up against him and all our DBs.”
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