11 May Prediction: Which rookies will Start And When?
The 49ers had arguably one of the best off-seasons in a long time, consisting of bringing some notable players back, signing depth and starter-caliber players, and lastly, a great draft where the team added some fantastic prospects. This was critical for the rebuilding of the 49ers squad to make it as close as possible to their 2019 Super Bowl run. The draft was almost impeccable, getting some players to be believed as steals in the later rounds, and acquiring several players that will probably stay with the 49ers for years to come. From the cast drafted, some of them are believed to start early in this season, while others are just hoped to develop and eventually become stars. In this article I will evaluate which rookies are more likely to play more than the others.
The 49ers had serious problems in their O-Line during the 2020 season, especially in their center and right guard positions where injuries and lack of players made protecting the quarterback difficult. Daniel Brunskill had to play several different positions in the year, including: right tackle, right guard and center, where he was pretty inconsistent. With him being rather versatile, he could be a great back up as the 49ers newly-acquired veteran Alex Mack. The 49ers are trying to fix their O-Line, which would mean Banks will likely start right away at the right guard position.
Kyle Shanahan filled the running back room by the additions of Wayne Gallman, Trey Sermon and Elijah Mitchell. The group already consisted of Raheem Mostert, Jeff Wilson, and JaMycal Hasty. This emphasizes how no one in that room has an assured spot. Raheem Mostert is known to be the starter as of now, but his elusive and quick style of play is not something that will last for long, especially at his age of 29. While Sermon is not the quickest player, he is definitely the most physical player in this stacked backfield. This could be very useful for 1st and 2nd downs to gain a solid amount of yardage, as he always refuses to go down. With that in mind, he could quickly become the starting running back or the 1st-down running back.
John Lynch and Kyle Shanahan have already stated several times that Jimmy Garoppolo will remain as the starter. However with Garoppolo’s injury history, Shanahan has grown increasingly concerned with his ability to stay on the field — and rightfully so. After a busy off-season, the 49ers made a blockbuster trade to obtain the 3rd-overall pick, where they would went on to draft North Dakota State quarterback Trey Lance. It is unsure if Jimmy will be able to stay healthy for the whole season, and with Trey Lance’s reported ability to quickly learn a playbook, it might not take long until he takes over the starting quarterback position. With that being said, this is the future of this franchise and isn’t something the team should rush by any means.
Talanoa Hufanga could be considered as one of the biggest draft steals if he ends up reaching his full potential. Although he is not the most pro-ready player, his style of play could be considered a bit similar to Hall Of Famer, Troy Palomalu, who he trained with while at USC. If Hufanga can be just a little bit of what Palomalu was, he could be a great pick up for the team. With him being a versatile player, he could fastly become a starter as a safety, or even earn some snaps as a nickelback hybrid role closer to the line.
One of the biggest concerns for 49ers fans is the cornerback position, as the three starting corners are on a 1-year deal. Jason Verrett might leave next year, and even if he returns, he becomes 30 years old this season and his injury history is not the best. Star nickel cornerback K’waun Williams will also turn 30 this season and that could mean that their time in San Francisco is coming to an end. Considering that, Assistant General Manager, Adam Peters, scouted Michigan’s Ambry Thomas & completely fell in love with his tape. The 49ers are hopeful they can develop Thomas into eventually starting and help replace a veteran. This season, Ambry Thomas will most likely get some reps to start gaining experience and hopefully growing into an important player.
Jaylon Moore was likely taken to add some depth, as Trent Williams and Mike McGlinchey are the definite starters right now. Nevertheless, Moore is a pretty good prospect. Also with McGlinchey’s poor pass-blocking in the 2020 season, Moore could step in and get starter-reps if McGlinchey continues to be inconsistent.
As mentioned earlier, the cornerback spot for the 49ers is not one of their strengths, and Lenoir was a good, physical corner at Oregon. He will start out low on the depth chart, with the goal of developing into a starter. He will likely get some special teams snaps as a rookie.
Elijah Mitchell is a great athlete, and he’s even considered to be one of the best in this year’s draft. The problem is the 49ers backfield is full, and because of the lack of production he had in Louisiana, he might not receive a big role any time soon. Hopefully he can grow as a player, and because of the great athlete he is, he might land a spot on the 53-man roster.