The San Francisco 49ers wrapped up their rookie minicamp this past weekend, and players now have the week off. With OTAs getting started in two weeks, now seems like a good time to start assessing what the 2016 NFL Draft means to the roster. We're going to run through each position on the depth chart and take a preliminary look at how the draft picks might impact it, as well as an initial thought on the bubble watch. Today, we move on to the wide receivers.
Aaron Lynch, Ahmad Brooks, Eli Harold, Tank Carradine, Corey Lemonier, Marcus Rush, Jason Fanaika, Kevin Anderson, Lenny Jones
The 49ers did not add any pass rushers in the draft, instead adding Jason Fanaika, Kevin Anderson, and Lenny Jones as undrafted free agents. The team instead invested along the defensive line, selecting DeForest Buckner in the first round, and Ronald Blair in the fifth round. Buckner is going to be a big body option, but his ability to get to the quarterback is one reason we can expect an improved pass rush in 2016.
There are two other notable changes from last year. Tank Carradine is going to a full-time outside linebacker in 2016. The team originally tried to bulk him up as a defensive tackle option. When that failed, they decided to bring him back down so he can employ his speed off the edge. He will get a chance to earn some significant opportunities in passing down situations. He will not be an every down outside linebacker, but will get opportunities to get after the quarterback.
The other notable change is that Eli Harold beefed up. The 49ers have generally like their outside linebackers in the mid-260s. Harold said he has bulked up into that range, and now we'll see what it means for his speed and power to the quarterback. I expect him to be the primary utility guy behind Brooks and Lynch.
Ahmad Brooks continues to stick around, even as the team tries to invest in more young pass rushers. The 49ers could try and trade him, or at the very least release him later this summer, but given that he has stuck around this long, I don't see him going anywhere. And given the need for extra bodies if this defense ends up with a lot more reps opposite Chip Kelly's offense, every extra OLB helps.
However, Corey Lemonier is a guy who is potentially looking at the wrong side of the bubble. The 2013 third round pick got some opportunities early, but when he did not show much improvement in pass rush moves, he regressed to primarily a special teams player. He could earn a primarily special teams role, but there is a lot of competition for that this season. And with Tank Carradine potentially becoming a more regular contributor in the pass rush, Lemonier loses that much more in his case for a roster spot.