The 49ers’ most underrated player is TE Charlie Woerner

Finding underrated players on a team’s roster isn’t usually difficult. National coverage tends to take a 30,000 foot view of the entire league, which naturally leaves stones unturned.

Ask any 49ers fan who the team’s most underrated player is and there are a host of answers that would make sense. Free safety Jimmie Ward is a good player who doesn’t get a ton of national shine. Neither cornerback Emmanuel Moseley nor receiver Brandon Aiyuk. Sports Illustrated’s Conor Orr found a deeper and more compelling cut in his exploration of every NFC team’s most underrated player.

The name he pulled from the list in San Francisco? Backup tight end Charlie Woerner. It’s a confusing choice at first, but its explanation and a dive into the numbers make it hard to disprove:

Wörner was not strongly used last year, coming in about a quarter of the 49ers’ snaps and 75% of their special teams snaps. But when he was in it, he showed his ability to block the pattern exceptionally well, which for a franchise that needs moving parts in the backfield to dictate certain looks is essential. Someone like Woerner proves his worth when Kittle and Kyle Juszczyk don’t have to put so much wear and tear on their own bodies and can be released as more natural pass catchers. Go back and rewatch his game against the Bears, in which he was used on 80% of the team’s snaps, and you’ll find an adept blocker who was the focus of some wide runs. Of the passing plays he was on the court for, San Francisco’s passing offense was 1.1 yards better per play.

It took Woerner a while to become a tackle after the 49ers pulled him from Georgia in the sixth round of the 2020 draft. His freshman year wasn’t a stellar one, but he improved at the over the past year and he has finally overtaken Ross Dwelley for the position of TE2.

His athleticism hasn’t shown in the passing game, which is part of why he’s considered underrated. Woerner has just eight catches for 88 yards on 10 targets in 31 games. However, his ability to get away and execute combo blocks with Juszczyk is key to the success of the 49ers rushing offense.

He is the line tight winger at left tackle on the play below:

The eyesight test follows Woerner’s improvement last season, and his increased playing time illustrated that as well. The numbers also indicate that he ranks among the most effective blocking TEs in the league.

Analytics site Pro Football Focus ranked Woerner last season 13th in overall rating among TEs with at least 200 attacking shots. He was No. 7 in run blocking and No. 14 in pass blocker. His overall rating jumped 15 points from Year 1 to Year 2, and his Race Blocking rating soared 25.8 points. Making this leap between its first and second season bodes well for Woerner’s long-term future.

It would be up to the 49ers to find another reliable receiving option in their tight room because of what she could unlock on their passing attack. Woerner has transformed into a key offensive cog over the past two years, and San Francisco is surely okay with him being underappreciated as long as he continues to grow in that expanded role.

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