The San Francisco 49ers added 19 players over the weekend through the draft and rookie free agency, which means all kinds of talent to consider. The players will impact the depth chart in a variety of ways, and so we begin looking at each pick and what they mean for their given position. James Brady looked at DeAndre Smelter and the wide receiver position on Tuesday, and on Sunday I took a look at Dylan Thompson, Blake Bell and the quarterback position. Today I am here to look at Jaquiski Tartt and the safety position. There is also room for some special teams discussion.
The selection of Tartt caught folks off guard, primarily because he spent his college career at Division II. David Neumann broke down the limited tape he could find to get a better handle on what Tartt brings to the table. We have very little to work with, but from what we do have, we see a big, fast safety who could cover some of the more athletic tight ends, while also potentially handling some linebacker work in a big nickel type of defense.
Monday evening, Tartt tweeted this out:
It is obvious he will not be in the starting lineup right away. His primary focus will be on special teams, but as David discussed on Tuesday, he could get some work if the 49ers use a big nickel style of defense on occasion.
The biggest impact in 2015 could be on Craig Dahl and/or L.J. McCray. Dahl is the primary backup at safety, while McCray turned into a core special teamer during his rookie season. Dahl continues to stick around, and one has to wonder if Tartt can do enough to entirely unseat him. Tartt has serious athleticism, but he is coming from Division II. It is hard to project how quickly he can make the leap to NFL caliber competition.
Long term it is easier to project out what we hope to see from Tartt. He could eventually replace Antoine Bethea, with Jimmie Ward remaining at the nickel back role. Or, if Eric Reid's concussions remain an issue, Ward and Tartt could eventually end up the starting safeties. We hope that latter result does not happen, but we know how things can get crazy in the NFL.
If Tartt proves he can be a standout special teamer, it might not bode well for McCray. But the bigger question is whether or not he can do enough to force a 49ers roster decision with Dahl. Plenty of fans are hoping to see the 49ers move on from Dahl, but he is an experienced veteran, while Tartt is a rookie coming from a lower level of college football. It will make for an interesting training camp competition.