The San Francisco 49ers spent several day three draft picks on players with injury concerns. Players drop into day three for a variety of reasons, including injuries, skill, and other circumstances. Teams can find immediate starters on the final day of the draft, but they’ll often roll the dice on players with upside.
One player the 49ers drafted who offers some sleeper intrigue is Middle Tennessee State wide receiver Richie James. The 49ers used one of their two seventh round picks on the speedy, undersized receiver, and he very well could prove to be a great sleeper pick.
The 49ers wrap up their rookie minicamp on Sunday, and James has been an early standout, per Chris Biderman. He is competing for an opportunity in the slot, where his small stature won’t necessarily be a big issue for him.
Following the draft, Mike Sando spoke with NFL personnel people to get their thoughts on each team’s draft class. They spoke about some of the 49ers early picks, but one person was intrigued by what James could bring to the 49ers.
“I thought he was just as good as Anthony Miller, who Chicago took in the third, but with the injury, teams didn’t look at him as much,” this insider said.
A strong performance in rookie minicamp does not guarantee anything when final roster cuts arrive, but it certainly doesn’t hurt. The team will have to figure out their depth chart for OTAs and minicamp, and then again for training camp. Every strong performance can help boost a player up the practice depth chart. The more reps a player can get higher up the depth chart, the more he can show the coaches.
The 49ers will hopefully get good value from some of their middle round picks. But could we see a second straight season with an impact seventh round pick? Last year, Adrian Colbert worked his way up the depth chart and eventually became the starting free safety. It seems unlikely James will entirely supplant Trent Taylor as the slot receiver, but James will get a chance in a competition that will be fierce with Kendrick Bourne, Aldrick Robinson, and plenty others.