San Francisco 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan is optimistic that rookie linebacker Reuben Foster will play this Sunday when the 49ers host the Dallas Cowboys. Foster suffered a high ankle sprain in Week 1, and has sat out since then. The team has taken their time with him, and given his value to the defense moving forward it makes sense.
However, getting him back did get me thinking about something that’s pretty cool. If Foster is active, there is a chance the 49ers could have as many as nine of their ten 2017 NFL Draft picks active in the same game. Foster being active could result in one of the others being inactive, but the possibility is there.
Here’s a full rundown of the 49ers draft picks this past April.
1(3). DE Solomon Thomas
1(31). LB Reuben Foster
3(66). CB Ahkello Witherspoon
3(104). QB C.J. Beathard
4(121). RB Joe Williams
5(146). TE George Kittle
5(177). WR Trent Taylor
6(198). DT D.J. Jones
6(202). OLB Pita Taumoepenu
7(229). DB Adrian Colbert
From that group, Sunday could see Thomas, Foster, Beathard, and Kittle all starting. Taylor is the team’s starting punt returner and slot receiver, which I think qualifies him effectively as a starter. Witherspoon got extensive rotation with the cornerbacks, and is likely to see that again. Jones is part of the defensive line rotation. Colbert is a core special teamer. Taumoepenu is also getting a decent amount of work on special teams. The only player with no chance of being active is Williams, who is on injured reserve.
And let’s not forget the undrafted free agents. Running back Matt Breida will be active, there is a good chance wide receiver Victor Bolden will be back deep on kick returns, and tight end Cole Hikutini is active once again with Kyle Juszczyk not expected to play. Kendrick Bourne and Erik Magnuson will likely remain inactive.
We are only six games into the NFL careers of these players. Some that are struggling will end up with solid NFL careers. Some that are off to solid starts might not keep it up. There is plenty to sort through, but seeing this many rookies getting a legitimate opportunity is refreshing. It does say a lot about how bad the roster was, but nonetheless, the rookies are working their way on the field.
The 49ers had a massive roster overhaul this offseason, and it’s safe to say we’ll see more of it next offseason. But for the time being, John Lynch and Kyle Shanahan are slowly starting to put together a nice little base of players to build around. They don’t have a ton of cornerstone pieces yet, but these final ten games will give us an idea if we can add more to that list.