The San Francisco 49ers have a lot of young talent, but plenty of questions as to whether or not they will emerge in 2016. There are numerous opportunities due to departures, suspensions, and injuries, and we’ll start to get some answers about draft picks and other recent additions.
Football Outsiders published their 2016 Football Outsiders Almanac, and part of the promotion includes a look at the top 25 breakout candidates for 2016. They have specific criteria for who is eligible to be on this list:
- Drafted in the third round or later, or signed as an undrafted free agent
- Entered the NFL between 2013 and 2015
- Fewer than 500 career offensive or defensive snaps
- Have not signed a contract extension (players who have bounced around the league looking for the right spot, however, still qualify for the list)
- Age 26 or younger in 2016
The list includes two members of the 49ers. Outside linebacker Eli Harold is listed at No. 16, and wide receiver Eric Rogers is listed as an honorable mention. Harold has a huge opportunity in front of him, with Aaron Lynch suspended. Eventually we would hopefully see Harold have worked himself ahead of Brooks when Lynch returns, but in the meantime, he can get a serious starting opportunity for at least the first four games. Here’s what FO had to say about Harold:
Unlike [Tevin] Coleman, Harold has a high floor. With the fourth-highest SackSEER projection for the 2015 class, there was plenty of reason to expect him to be a steady, valuable edge rusher. But he was stuck behind Ahmad Brooks last year and didn't play much. Will that change in 2016? It depends on how high the new coaching staff is on Brooks. In the meantime, Harold will get an opportunity to shine right away with Aaron Lynch's four-game suspension opening up a spot in the starting lineup.
Rogers entered the NFL in 2014 as a UDFA, but could not show much. He was cut and ended up in the CFL. After a solid end of 2014, he broke out in 2015, leading the CFL in receptions, yards, and touchdowns. He has the size Chip Kelly covets, but we have no idea how he will look facing NFL competition this month and into the regular season. But, it’s a huge opportunity for the CFL standout with Torrey Smith as the only truly established wide receiver on the roster.