The San Francisco 49ers enter training camp in a few weeks with 11 players in their 2016 draft class, not including undrafted free agents. Each player enters camp with different expectations, and odds are pretty good expectations will have changed for some of them by the end of training camp.
With that in mind, I thought it would be fun to take a look at the best and worst case expectations for each player. We’ll also try and come up with “realistic expectations,” but those extremes of best and worst will give us a framework heading into training camp. I want best and worst to be somewhat measured in realism, so we won’t have “gets cut” as the worst case scenario for every player. The same holds true for pie in the sky optimism.
I am thinking we’ll re-visit this after camp, once we know what the 53-man roster and likely starting lineup looks like. We won’t go in order with these, but rather will bounce between players. I’ve listed the full draft class at the bottom of the page, and will include links to each player’s article.
We start with cornerback Will Redmond. The 49ers spent a third round pick on a talented player that general manager Trent Baalke suggested would be competing to work as a nickel back. Redmond likely would have gone higher, but a torn ACL cost him in the draft. He spent the 49ers offseason workout program rehabbing his knee, but Baalke and Redmond have both said they expect him to be ready to go in training camp.
Best case scenario
The best case scenario sees Redmond able to practice in training camp, and getting significant time as the team’s nickel back. Even in the best case scenario, I think he opens camp on the NFI list. However, that would be primarily because it is a procedural move to reserve the NFI option if something about his knee shows up weird before the team hits the practice field.
If the knee holds up and he is able to practice, it is entirely possible he claims the nickel job. It might not be for Week 1, but in the best case scenario, he earns a significant role in the slot during the coming season. Jimmie Ward worked as an outside cornerback for much of the offseason workout program. That leaves the nickel role wide open. Chris Davis got a lot of work in it during OTAs and minicamp, but Redmond is the guy they drafted as a long-term option there. In the best case scenario, he makes strides towards reaching that potential as a rookie.
Worst case scenario
Pretty simple, really. He spends the entire season on the NFI list. Baalke and Redmond have both been optimistic about his chances of practicing in camp, but I’ll remain skeptical until I actually see him on the field. ACL injuries are tricky. It’s no longer the clear career-ender it used to be, but it’s not guaranteed a player gets back quickly.
I think for a lot of people, expectations are set for Redmond to spend the year on the NFI list. I could see a couple options for “realistic expectations.” The first would be Redmond spends camp on the NFI list, opens the season on the NFI list, but is activated after he is eligible to return once the team knows what the rest of the cornerbacks are doing. The second would be that he starts practicing in camp, as he and Baalke have insisted will happen, and is inactive for some of the early games as the team figures out some of his cornerback options. I think realistically, the team will work him in slowly, but I’ll go ahead and buy into their comments that Redmond will practice in camp. Fool me once.....
1 (7). DeForest Buckner, DT, Oregon (best case/worst case)
1 (28). Joshua Garnett, OG, Stanford (best case/worst case)
3 (5). Will Redmond, CB, Mississippi State (best case/worst case)
4 (35). Rashard Robinson, CB, LSU (best case/worst case)
5 (3). Ronald Blair, DE, Appalachian State (best case/worst case)
5 (6). John Theus, OT, Georgia (best case/worst case)
5 (35). Fahn Cooper, OT, Ole Miss
6 (32). Jeff Driskel, QB, Louisiana Tech (best case/worst case)
6 (36). Kelvin Taylor, RB, Florida (best case/worst case)
6 (38). Aaron Burbridge, WR, Michigan State (best case/worst case)
7 (28). Prince Charles Iworah, CB, Western Kentucky