The San Francisco 49ers wrapped up the team’s rookie minicamp last week. It was the first chance for Kyle Shanahan and the rest of the coaching staff to see their rookie class in action, including undrafted free agents and players invited on a tryout basis. With a roster still in the midst of a rebuild, the 49ers are going to need a fair amount of production from general manager John Lynch’s newest crop of draftees. Here’s our projected impact for the 49ers’ rookie class in 2019.
DE Nick Bosa
Bosa will provide the 49ers with the impact you would expect from the No. 2 overall pick. His refined skill set will allow him to start immediately among fellow first-rounders Solomon Thomas, Deforest Buckner, Arik Armstead and Dee Ford. The 49ers’ stacked defensive front will prevent offense’s from focusing their attention on Bosa, which should give the rookie ample opportunity to rack up sacks. In just three games, Bosa totaled 14 tackles, six tackles for loss, four sacks and a forced fumble before a core injury ended his 2018 season at Ohio State. If he remains healthy, 10+ sacks is an obtainable mark in Bosa’s debut season for the 49ers.
Projected impact: Immediate starter with Pro Bowl potential
WR Deebo Samuel
The 49ers targeted Samuel in the second round for many of the same reasons they chose Bosa. Samuel’s prowess as a route-runner is equally impressive to Bosa’s technique as a pass rusher. He’s likely to occupy a multi-faceted role within Shanahan’s offense with the capability of playing all three receiver spots. Samuel will fill the void left by departed veteran Pierre Garçon as a wideout that plays with unique physicality and excels after the catch. The former Gamecock scored 11 times in 2018 and his fearlessness over the middle of the field should make him a favorite target for quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo.
Projected impact: Immediate starter
WR Jalen Hurd
Hurd is the 49ers’ most intriguing selection among this year’s draft class. He began his college career as a running back at Tennessee, racking up 1,285 yards and 14 total touchdowns in 2015. He transferred to Baylor to become a receiver with encouraging results, reeling in 69 receptions for 946 yards and four touchdowns in his first season at the position in 2018. The 49ers likely targeted Hurd with a concise plan on how to take advantage of his versatile skill set. He may not be among the first on the field, but there’s a good chance Hurd becomes a critical piece of Shanahan’s offense if he continues to develop.
Projected impact: Rotational starter
P Mitch Wishnowsky
Wishnowsky is the safest bet on the 49ers’ roster for the role of an immediate starter, as a punter taken in the fourth-round should be. The former Utah ace won the Ray Guy Award in 2016, awarded to the nation’s top collegiate punter, and was a finalist in 2017. Wishnowsky’s role will be about flipping the field and pinning opposing offense’s deep for the 49ers’ special teams.
Projected impact: Immediate starter
LB Dre Greenlaw
The 49ers added free agent linebacker Kwon Alexander in the offseason, who’s still in the process of recovering from a torn ACL. There’s a chance that Greenlaw could earn some starts opposite Fred Warner at the start of the season while Alexander reaches 100%. Greenlaw is an undersized linebacker, at 5-foot-11 and 237 pounds, but plays with the speed necessary to hold his own in coverage. Filling in when needed and contributing on special teams is a realistic projection for the former Arkansas Razorback.
Projected impact: Backup and spot starter
TE Kaden Smith
George Kittle needn't worry, the 49ers’ star tight end isn’t in jeopardy of losing his role as the offense’s leading playmaker. However, Smith will definitely be able to compete along with veteran Garrett Celek for the role of Kittle’s backup. Like Celek, Smith lacks any elite traits, but can hold his own as both a blocker and receiver. His stout 6-foot-5, 255-pound frame should make him a worthwhile target in the red zone.
Projected impact: Competing for primary backup
OL Justin Skule
The 49ers’ offensive line is complete with bookends Joe Staley and Mike McGlinchey. Both are the obvious favorites to start. Skule’s responsibility throughout the offseason will be to win the role of swing tackle, backing up both Staley and McGlinchey throughout the season. Landing a spot on the 49ers’ 53-man spot as a backup is as good as can be expected for the sixth-round Vanderbilt product.
Projected impact: Backup swing tackle
CB Tim Harris
The 49ers could do no better than Harris with their final pick in the draft. The Virginia cornerback struggled to stay on the field throughout college, succumbing to two season-ending injuries in 2016 and ‘17, but showcased legitimate talent when on the field. Harris’ first step is to earn a spot on the roster, which won’t be easy, but if he does, could develop into a starting option down a road that’s hopefully injury-free.
Projected impact: Backup with potential