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How many 49ers 2015, 2016 draft picks could see significant playing time this season?

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The San Francisco 49ers have accumulated a lot of young talent the last two years. Now it’s a matter of getting them on the field with some kind of regularity.

The San Francisco 49ers roster shuffle remains in full swing, as the last two years have seen extensive turnover. Retirement, free agency, and trades have resulted in virtually the entire Super Bowl 47 starting lineup turning over. The only remaining clear-cut starters from that season are left tackle Joe Staley, outside linebacker Ahmad Brooks, and inside linebacker NaVorro Bowman. Colin Kaepernick could reclaim the starting quarterback job, but for now he is competing for the role.

Our friends at Dawgs By Nature took a look at how many rookies might be starting for the Cleveland Browns when Week 1 arrives. I thought I’d take that in another direction. We’ve complained about the roster for some time, so let’s consider how many 2015 and 2016 draft picks might end up getting significant playing time the first few games of the season.

Here are the two draft classes. I am not including undrafted free agents for the time-being. There are a handful who could make an impact, but let’s stick with the drafts for now.

2015

  1. DT Arik Armstead
  2. S Jaquiski Tartt
  3. OLB Eli Harold
  4. TE Blake Bell
  5. RB Mike Davis
  6. WR DeAndre Smelter
  7. P Bradley Pinion
  8. OT Ian Silberman
  9. OT Trent Brown
  10. TE Busta Anderson

There is still a ton for a lot of these guys to prove. Even the ones who showed some signs last season will be looked upon to take another step forward in 2016. But there is a legitimate chance seven or eight of the ten players in this class could see a decent amount of playing time in 2016. Armstead has an excellent chance of moving into the starting lineup. Tartt could be looking at a safety/linebacker hybrid role. Harold is getting first team reps while Ahmad Brooks deals with whatever his injury is. Blake Bell is competing for tight end work in a unit that could be very fluid. Mike Davis was not good last season, but without a lot behind Carlos Hyde, he'll get a lot of preseason opportunities. DeAndre Smelter is back from his ACL tear, and if this hamstring strain doesn’t last into training camp, he could compete for significant snaps at wide receiver. Bradley Pinion is locked in as the starting punter. And Trent Brown is competing for the starting right tackle role. That leaves just Ian Silberman and Busta Anderson potentially on the outside looking in. And considering the state of the tight end position, you never know what could happen with the physically gifted Anderson.

2016

  1. DT DeForest Buckner
  2. OG Joshua Garnett
  3. CB Will Redmond
  4. CB Rashard Robinson
  5. DE Ronald Blair
  6. OT John Theus
  7. OT Fahn Cooper
  8. QB Jeff Driskel
  9. RB Kelvin Taylor
  10. WR Aaron Burbridge
  11. CB Prince Charles Iworah

Buckner likely won't be starting right away, but he will probably move into a significant rotational role on passing downs. Garnett is likely going to be one of the starting guards fairly quickly. Redmond is coming off a 2015 ACL tear, and it is too early to tell what his status will be heading into training camp. Robinson hasn’t played in 18 months, but was reportedly impressive in the offseason workout program. We’ve already discussed how Blair could be the day three player that makes the biggest impact as a rookie. Theus and Cooper are competing for swing tackle work, and right tackle is certainly ripe for the taking at some point. Taylor was a day three pick for a reason, but there are a ton of opportunities available behind Carlos Hyde. You can make some arguments for Burbridge at the wide receiver position, but Driskel and Iworah are developmental prospects for now.

You can make arguments for and against impact for most of these guys, but it’s still a fascinating group of first and second year players. This is not to say these guys will actually all be good if they get significant snaps, but the potential is at least fascinating for these two draft classes.