Over at Mocking The Draft, they're putting together a series of posts entitled "Rookie Depth Chart Battles." They look at the various rookies and discuss their competition heading into camp. Amidst the discussion surrounding the player and his competition they provide a percentage chance of winning the battle. Back in mid-May they took a look at 49ers first round pick Aldon Smith and gave him an 85% of "winning the battle." They don't acknowledge the potential departure of Manny Lawson, which I think is a bigger reason Smith would move up the depth chart. He has a lot of raw talent, but the lockout will delay that development while Lawson's departure would hasten his move up the chart.
In looking over the 49ers 2011 draft picks, do you see one particular player moving up the depth chart faster than others? We'll provide some more specific breakdowns as we get closer to training camp but in the meantime let's discuss the entire group.
When discussing the depth chart, I'd say it can cover offense, defense, and also special teams. For example, Colin Jones is likely going to be an immediate contributor on special teams. He plays safety but the team brought him in for his special teams prowess on coverage units. Special teams might be a more limited amount of time and less press coverage than offensive or defensive units, but it will be Jones' ticket to the 53-man roster.
Daniel Kilgore and Michael Person will be battling for offensive line time but it's hard to tell where they'll end up on the depth chart. Kilgore is a potential long term answer at center but if the team signs David Baas to a long term deal, Kilgore will settle in to a backup role for the foreseeable future (barring injuries to the starters of course). The right guard position is the one area where turmoil and talent issues could get Person or Kilgore more playing time. Chilo Rachal is technically the starter but it's going to be interesting to see how quickly that could change in training camp.
Kendall Hunter and Chris Culliver will both likely see a decent amount of playing time as rookies, but it's hard to tell for sure how much they'll earn. Hunter will be battling Anthony Dixon in the backup role and I know there are plenty of folks who think Hunter will quickly surpass Dixon. On the defensive side of the ball, you could make the argument that Chris Culliver might find himself in a similar battle with Tarell Brown and Phillip Adams.
In looking at these two battles, will the lockout potential buy Dixon and Brown a bit more time in their current role? The fewer minicamps and training camp days, the more veterans would seem to benefit. For the 49ers defensive rookies it would seem to be an even bigger issue considering they don't even have a playbook to study at this point.
A rookie who could emerge up the depth chart fairly quickly, particularly compared to the defensive rookies, would have to be Ronald Johnson. While the defensive rookies can't do much more than stay in shape, Johnson has had a chance to work quite a bit with 49ers QB Alex Smith down in San Jose. We've heard about Kevin Jurovich working out extensively as well, but I think Johnson could be the guy who really benefits when training camp gets going. With serious question marks after Crabtree and Morgan (if you're comfortable with those two), Johnson could find a nice little spot for himself. He's competing with Ted Ginn (hands of stone), Kyle Williams (questionable hamstrings) and Dominique Zeigler (question marks on his question marks). I'd imagine the battle will come down to Williams and Johnson, but it's hard to tell at this point since Harbaugh hasn't really discussed his wide receivers to date.
Who do you think emerges with the most extensive playing time as a rookie?