The San Francisco 49ers head into the second half of the 2016 season in a position to potentially see more of what their young talent can do. The team is not going to the playoffs, and the rebuilding process continues to slowly creak along. I have to think at some point we see more of the young talent.
Two young players getting a lot of playing time thus far are the two first round picks. The 49ers selected Oregon defensive tackle DeForest Buckner with the No. 7 pick, and then moved up from the second round to No. 28 to select Stanford guard Joshua Garnett. Buckner earned a starting role from the start, while Garnett moved into the starting lineup in Week 5.
Pro Football Focus has been tracking all the rookies, and put together a look at all 31 first round picks heading into this past week’s action. Here is what they had to say about each player:
DeForest Buckner (74.9)
DeForest Buckner has been extremely active for the 49ers, but has yet to be as destructive in the NFL as he was at Oregon. He has two sacks, three hits, 12 hurries, a batted pass, and 12 defensive stops, but has struggled to anchor against double teams, in particular, and has been part of a lightweight 49ers’ defensive front that has struggled to stop the run.
Buckner has flashed a lot, but as one would expect from a rookie, he has dealt with inconsistency. There are too many instances where he is easily pushed away from a play. It is not a strength issue, but rather a matter of improving his technique and getting rid of some sloppy college habits. The key will be learning from the mistakes and getting out of those sloppy habits.
Joshua Garnett (47.5)
Joshua Garnett didn’t get on the field until Week 5, playing 18 snaps against the Arizona Cardinals, but he has started the two games since. He was completely victimized by Buccaneers DT Gerald McCoy in the passing game, but did well as a run blocker. Garnett already surrendered 13 total pressures in just 100 pass-blocking snaps.
The 49ers pass protection has been pretty solid so far this season. Garnett however has struggled in that year, while finding some success as a run blocker. It reminds me of past 49ers guards. He will not face as significant a challenge in Week 9 as he did against McCoy in Week 7, but we need to see improvement in pass protection.