At one point or the other in Sunday’s game vs. Bears, there were nine rookies playing crucial snaps. Although the 49ers were 4-10 going into the game, it’s valuable experience for young players competing in a December game against the NFC North champion, who are playoff bound.
Accumulating injuries to veterans isn’t ideal for a team that’s trying to make a playoff run, but for a franchise that’s headed for another top-five draft selection, it could prove beneficial long-term.
After a hard-fought, 14-9 loss to Chicago at home, let’s see if the rookies’ stock rose or fell after Sunday’s performance.
QB Nick Mullens — Stock Up
The 49ers’ quarterback is in his second season, but since he spent all last season on the practice squad, he is considered a rookie. This past Sunday, he completed 22 of 38 passing attempts for 241 yards against the NFL’s No. 1 defense, while throwing only one interception — a ball that bounced off of wideout Marquise Goodwin’s hands.
Mullens’ biggest error of the game came on the final play, a 4th-and-4 play, where the rookie threw the ball out of bounds, rather than running for a first down to keep a potential game-winning drive alive.
RB Jeff Wilson Jr. — Stock Down
Now, this should be taken with a grain of salt, because Wilson Jr. is rushing against a defensive front that features Khalil Mack, Akeem Hicks and Leonard Floyd.
But after the injury to running back Matt Breida that sidelined him for the remainder of the game, Wilson Jr. carried the ball 11 more times for 27 yards — that’s an average of 2.5 yards per carry, just saying.
After having a hot start to the season, it seems like Wilson Jr. has started to slow down as a ball carrier. He still has an ability to catch balls out of the backfield, grabbing two more passes for 11 yards.
WR Dante Pettis — Stock Didn’t Change
After having a few monster games, 49ers’ fans probably expected Pettis to grow into becoming the No. 1 receiver to close out this disappointing season.
He’s had four touchdowns in his last five games and had games of 83, 49, 129 and 77 yards. The ex-Husky has been able to take the top off of the defense in each of those games, but the Bears were able to take that away on Sunday.
Pettis was targeted five times, but only made three catches for 21 yards. The rookie receiver was fourth in targets on Sunday, behind Goodwin, tight end George Kittle and wideout Kendrick Bourne.
Despite all of that, Pettis is going to be just fine and I’m not worried after a poor performance against the NFL’s top defense.
WR/KR Richie James Jr. — Stock Didn’t Change
It was going to be hard for James Jr. to make a better impression than last week, after having a kick-off return touchdown against the Seahawks. The rookie hasn’t made an impact on offense yet, but his return game has been putting the 49ers in good position when they start on offense.
CB Tarvarius Moore — Stock Up
After earning the start with the season-ending injury to CB Ahkello Witherspoon, Moore surely made his mark in the fourth quarter, by forcing his career fumble on Bears’ wideout Allen Robinson. With the 49ers desperately trying to get the ball back for their offense, Moore came up with a timely turnover.
Outside of that, Moore filled the stat sheet with seven tackles and decent defensive coverage on the Bears’ wide receivers.
S Marcell Harris — Stock Up
“Should safety Jaquiski Tartt be worried about his starting job in 2019?” — is a narrative that Harris has already created in the handful of games that he’s played in.
In his few starts, Harris has certainly stepped up as the physical enforcer on the back end of the defense, even starting a kerfuffle yesterday between the two teams along the Bears’ sideline. He’s also been all over the field, racking up another five tackles yesterday.
His coverage of playmakers in space could probably still use some fine tuning, but as a run defender in the box, Harris has exceeded expectations as a seventh-round pick.
LB Fred Warner — Stock Didn’t Change
49ers’ fans certainly know what to expect from Warner moving forward. He’s going to be the starting linebacker for the foreseeable future and that’s not going to change after a down performance.
Warner didn’t seem to be his usual self, flying sideline to sideline and making plays. But that being said, Bears’ running back Tarik Cohen was certainly held in check, rushing six times for 12 yards and only having one catch. Cohen has certainly exploded in weeks past, but the 49ers — mainly Warner — were able to keep him tamed.
CB D.J. Reed — Stock Down
After playing in 79 percent of defensive snaps last week against the Seahawks, the return of CB K’Waun Williams didn’t help for Reed’s stock. The rookie only played in 31 percent of the 49ers’ snaps on defense against the Bears.
As a result, Reed only racked up three tackles and didn’t have as big of an impact. His role moving forward will be in question with the return of Williams to the starting lineup.
DT Jullian Taylor — Stock Up
While Taylor’s stat line only shows a few tackles, the rookie defensive tackle played in 27 percent of the 49ers’ defensive snaps. He played in 17 percent of snaps last week and 18 percent the week before.
The rookie defender certainly has come on as of late, playing well in run defense. His role moving forward should certainly increase.