The San Francisco 49ers are crossing the bay this week to face the Raiders. While the big name players will get the headlines and will be the draw for this match-up, there are always a few players who won't show up on the radar. Those players always make a difference in the game.
To bring you those players for this game, I connected with Dave Fucillo at SB Nation 49ers site Niners Nation to give us those players who are flying under the radar in San Francisco. In turn I lay out three players who are flying under the ‘Raidar' in Oakland (see what I did there?).
CB Dontae Johnson - The 49ers secondary was a big question mark heading into this season, having lost cornerbacks Carlos Rogers and Tarell Brown, and safety Donte Whitner. The team expected to build around Tramaine Brock and Chris Culliver, but injuries have cost Brock all but parts of two games. The cornerbacks have somehow remained strong, and the last few weeks, Dontae Johnson has been one reason why. The rookie fourth round pick took over the nickel back role when first round pick Jimmie Ward suffered a season-ending foot injury. Johnson is 6'2 and has the needed size and athleticism to hang with the mix of receivers in the NFL. He is quietly securing himself a long term starting role with the 49ers.
WR Stevie Johnson - He is not exactly an under the radar guy, but since the 49ers acquired him via draft day trade this past May, he has flown under the radar. He has not gotten a ton of snaps and looks in the 49ers offense, but he has been the most efficient receiver based on various metrics, including yards per route run. It remains to be seen if he'll get more looks from Colin Kaepernick, but when Kap looks his way, good things seem to happen.
OLB Aaron Lynch - Chris Borland has been the more talked about rookie lately, but Aaron Lynch has been an absolute beast in the pass rush. He is likely going to be a full-time starter next season, but for this year, he has proven to be very capable. You will see Lynch and Aldon Smith coming off the edge in passing situations, and it is easy to confuse the two as they both are tall with long arms, and both wear white long-sleeve shirts under their jerseys and pads. They are creating a strong book-end presence for the 49ers pass rush.
RB Latavius Murray - He burst onto the scene for much of the football watching world when he ran for 112 yards and two touchdowns on 4 carries in the Thursday night win over the Chiefs. One of those runs went for 90 yards. But even still, he is not exactly a household name and many have probably forgotten about that performance because he got a concussion and was out last week. But that was not a fluke. In his first two carries of the previous game he ran for 14 and 23 yards. This after having just six carries the entire season prior to that. He has run for 155 yards and 2 TD's in his last 8 carries. Darren McFadden has run for 155 yards in his last 62 carries. So, yeah, he's a difference maker.
CB/PR T.J. Carrie - This seventh round rookie has looked like an absolute steal since the moment he stepped on the field this season. He is a very good cornerback and a fantastic return man. He returns punts primarily but with the lack of even passable options at kick returner he may do that as well this week. He had started a game but went out with an ankle injury and is just now returning to full strength.
WR Brice Butler - This guy has flown under the radar for a while. He was a standout freshman at USC before Lane Kiffin came in and tried to destroy his college career, prompting him to eventually transfer to San Diego State. This caused him to drop to the seventh round of the draft. On a deep but overall bereft of talent receiving corps in Oakland, he is one a few bright spots. In fact, he is the only receiver on the team who currently has a positive grade on Pro Football Focus. (+2.2). He leads the team in yards per catch (14.8) and despite just 17 catches, he is 4th on the team in receiving behind starters James Jones, Andre Holmes, and Mychal Rivera.