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 let’s move onto seventh-round pick WR Richie James out of Middle Tennessee State. The explosive playmaker owns the records at his alma mater for catches (243), receiving yards (3,249) and touchdowns (23). The 5-foot-9 James will line up in the slot, engineering matchup nightmares for opposing defensive coordinators due to his speed and quickness. His toughness was personified during the 49ers’ rookie minicamp, when he wrestled a catch away from CB Emmanuel Moseley, as the defender tugged away his helmet.
Best case scenario for 2018
The 49ers have their version of the Steelers’ WR Antonio Brown — a late-round, under-the-radar slot receiver that explodes onto the scene. If anyone is going to be able to squeeze every last bit of value out of an offensive skill player, it’s going to be Kyle Shanahan. While it’s an uphill battle to find a roster spot behind the likes of Trent Taylor, Marquise Goodwin and Dante Pettis, Richie James shows enough potential to beat out Victor Bolden Jr. for the sixth and final roster spot for wide receivers. James uses the opportunity to develop into what rookie Trent Taylor was for the 49ers in 2017.
Worst case scenario for 2018
James doesn’t shine in training camp — not even enough to earn himself a spot as a special teams’ ace. As a result, the 49ers choose to go with Pierre Garcon, Marquise Goodwin, Dante Pettis, Trent Taylor, Kendrick Bourne, and Victor Bolden Jr. as their six receivers on the 53-man roster. James doesn’t clear waivers and gets picked up by another squad that can better utilize a young, exciting receiver with loads of potential. The 49ers end up having a 2018 draft pick that doesn’t ever suit up for the team.