It’s hard to label a Pro Bowler as a team’s “secret superstar,” but in the grand scheme of the 49ers offense, that’s probably just what Kyle Juszczyk is.
This week, Sam Monson of the analytic website Pro Football Focus pointed out what he believes are the under-the-radar stars of every NFL team, and he anointed Juszczyk as the 49ers’ “secret superstar.”
Certainly, there has been far more focus this offseason on new quarterback Brian Hoyer, a revamped corps of wide receivers and the running back group led by Carlos Hyde.
But the 49ers’ new braintrust of GM John Lynch and head coach Kyle Shanahan went out quickly at the start of free agency to sign Juszczyk, a fullback who was a standout in 2016 for the Baltimore Ravens. In fact, the Niners gave him a reported $21 million deal over four years that makes him the NFL’s top-paid fullback.
One of the reasons the 49ers coveted him is because he’s incredibly versatile. This past season he lined up at fullback, running back and as a slot receiver. Over the past two seasons he’s caught 78 passes.
“Let’s not think of him as a fullback,” Lynch told the media after signing Juszczyk. “Let’s think of him as an ‘O.W.,’ offensive weapon.”
Monson wrote that the 49ers’ new fullback can be a tough, versatile piece of Shanahan’s offense, in both the running and passing attacks, while also being durable. He played 115 more snaps than any other fullback in 2016.
“Fullback is a position of declining importance in today’s NFL as offenses focus ever more on the passing games and less on 3 yards and a cloud of dust, so to survive and thrive in today’s NFL a fullback needs to be versatile, and Kyle Juszczyk is as versatile as they get,” wrote Monson. “He played significantly more snaps than any other fullback in the league in 2016 and graded well as a blocker and pass catcher, but even earned himself five carries, gaining 14 of his 22 rushing yards after contact. He should make an intriguing free-agent addition to the roster.”