The San Francisco 49ers report for training camp on July 25th, at which point position competitions will work their way into focus. Training camp also means we finally get to see the youngest and newest members of the 49ers get into pads and engage in some real contact with the team for the first time.
As training camp approaches, we thought it would be fun to take a look at each of the 49ers notable rookies, and consider the best and worst case scenarios for them this season. We are looking at draft picks and a handful of UDFAs. Additionally, by best and worst case scenario, I’m thinking realistic best and worst. Sure, they could become All Pros as rookies or could end up getting cut by the end of training camp. But let’s consider realistically what would be the best and the worst for each.
Today, we start with former Kansas State defensive back D.J. Reed. He was an outstanding kick returner in college (32.2 yards per return average), and did some solid work as a punt returner his final season (14.9 yards per return). He was projected as a slot cornerback coming out of college, but he got work at free safety during the offseason workout program.
Best case scenario for 2018
He takes over as the 49ers kick returner, and maybe even secures the punt returner job as well if the team prefers Dante Pettis work primarily on offense. He finishes the season as a top ten kickoff return man. On defense, there is an outside chance he could wrest away a slot corner role from K’Waun Williams, but if not, he could still end up as the second slot corner when they go into a dime look. A realistic best case rookie season on defense sees him as the primary backup at slot corner and free safety.
Worst case scenario for 2018
Usually a fifth round pick is going to make the roster, but there is a chance it doesn’t work out. I see worst case being the 49ers want to try and slip him to the practice squad at final roster cuts, only to lose him to another team via waivers. They would cut him because of struggles on returns and overcoming his size in defending receivers down the field.