The San Francisco 49ers appear to have hit gold on their 2017 seventh round pick, with Adrian Colbert claiming the starting free safety job. Now, the team might have some diamonds in the rough with their seventh round picks from the 2018 NFL Draft.
On Tuesday, defensive lineman Jullian Taylor got first team reps at the strong side defensive end role. Arik Armstead is the starter at that position, but he suffered a hamstring strain that has him listed as week-to-week. Taylor got the spot over Ronald Blair and the rest of the defensive line, but it sounds like he was working towards an opportunity before the injury. Head coach Kyle Shanahan said on Tuesday that he has solid size and power, and had through a week of camp had earned a chance for some first team work.
Taylor’s name has not shown up in many practice reports, but the film is speaking to the coaching staff. With Armstead out for at an indefinite amount of time, it seems certain he will not play next week in the 49ers preseason opener against the Dallas Cowboys. Whether or not Taylor gets the start at strong end, it is safe to say we will see a lot of the rookie next week.
We will also probably see a lot of wide receiver Richie James. His name has popped up a lot in practice reports, hauling in catches and generally looking like he belongs in practice. The defensive backs are not using bump-and-run coverage, so we’ll have to wait and see what the preseason brings, but he’s excelling at what they’re asking of him.
Unless the team wants to stash James or Taylor on the practice squad, I have to think we see a lot of both of them. And there really is no reason to try and stash them. Arik Armstead will recover from his hamstring injury, but his extensive injury history raises questions. The team exercised his fifth year option for 2019, but they could still cut him, as it is only guaranteed for injury. The team is likely on the lookout for a potential replacement. As for James, if the team looks to keep a sixth receiver for special teams duty, it makes all the sense in the world to keep him if he impresses over the next month.