It’s widely known that players tend to take a sizable step in Year two of their development. As a rookie, you are adjusting to the speed of the game. You are being overloaded with information, and for the first time in your life, you’re no longer the best player on the field.
If the San Francisco 49ers are going to win more than their projected eight games in 2019, the rookie class from 2018 will need to step up. That’s how playoff teams emerge. Take a look at the Chicago Bears. Safety Eddie Jackson went from a pretty solid rookie to one of the best safeties in the NFL. That helped transform the secondary. Who will be that player for the Niners? Here are three players that need to make the jump in their second year.
In Street’s draft profile on NFL.com, his player comparison was Ronald Blair. Street was known for his athleticism, strength, and versatility coming out of North Carolina State. He played on a stacked defensive line where Street played both inside and out. Street doesn’t need to go in and get ten sacks. Success would be him coming in and stealing that third pass-rushing role from Ronald Blair.
Street plays with a ton of effort, and that matters. Kris Kocurek has some new toys to coach. Provided Street has recovered from the ACL injury he suffered at his Pro Day in the spring of 2018; Street has an excellent shot at winning that job.
The frustration for a lot of 49ers fans was that Moore was playing out of position. The former college safety transitioned to cornerback in 2018, and that was always going to be a learning curve. To his credit, Moore didn’t look entirely out of his depth. There were some growing pains, but we knew that would happen. Moore is a rare athlete. To me, he should be on the field. Whether that’s at free safety, strong safety, in the box, outside at corner. Moore is a talent.
The coaching staff views Moore as a cornerback, and that’s all that matters. If that’s the case, Moore is probably another year away from realistically being able to contribute. That’s why many believe he’s Richard Sherman’s replacement in 2020, in the event the team doesn’t re-sign Sherman. In 2019, Moore needs to find his role, whatever that may be. He has too much ability to be on the sidelines.
D.J. Reed Jr.
Coming out of Kansas State, Reed Jr. was known for his ball skills. He broke up 25 passes during the two years he played in college. At 5-foot-9, and 188 pounds, many figured Reed Jr. would play in the slot. The 49ers tried Reed Jr. out at free safety as well, where he played 154 snaps. He played 172 snaps in the slot.
I don’t know if this is an unpopular opinion, but to me, Reed Jr. has a higher ceiling than K’Waun Williams. Reed Jr. is more of a willing tackler and can get you takeaways. In Robert Saleh’s defense, they’re never going to be asked to lock down receivers in man coverage consistently. Unless there is a drastic change this year, of course. In the slot, you want players that are aware and can read the QB. That’s been Reed Jr. all of his life.
If you recall what Reed Jr. did against the Denver Broncos Week 14 in place of Williams, that’s everything you want. You’re going to give up catches in the slot, but it’s more important to limit what receivers do after the catch. In that game, Williams gave up six catches for a total of 15 yards. He also had eight tackles. Seven of those were “stops,” which constitutes a loss for the offense. If Reed Jr. can give the 49ers that type of production consistently, the front office will be ecstatic.
Rob Lowder will be back to tell us what the first three picks of the 2018 draft class need to do for the 49ers to take the next step.