We have the schedule coming out this week. Let’s see how eager the schedule makers are to see the 49ers on the national stage.
Richard Sherman’s potential return casts a sizable question mark over the cornerback depth chart. Thomas as the roster sits without Sherman is probably the first CB off the bench behind Jason Verrett and Emmanuel Moseley. If Sherman joins the roster, Thomas likely gets pushed down a spot or two. Injuries were very prevalent in the secondary last year though. Thomas may start the season as a reserve, but he could see plenty of playing time if he does land as the top reserve corner.
Given that USC heritage, the 49ers went back to the well on defense and took Trojan safety Talanoa Hufanga at No. 180, midway through Day 3 on Saturday, May 1. Hufanga has a nose for the ball. He is not especially fast, but he is in the right position. He makes good reads. He has a high football IQ. He is a very coachable player who will not be fooled or outmaneuvered.
Hufanga could suffer in pass coverage, but he will be excellent in run support. He is a fearless and sound tackler. He relishes combat and can hold his own — his physical strength will enable him to be a valuable piece on special teams. He will have a role in running situations for opposing offenses. Though highly unlikely to be a star, Hufanga can stick on the roster and be a steal for the 49ers, relative to his place in the NFL draft.
“The 49ers have a playoff-caliber roster when they’re relatively healthy,” wrote Moton. “With that said, Garoppolo isn’t a reliable starter. He’s missed 23 games over the last three seasons. We could see rookie quarterback Trey Lance take over for his oft-injured veteran counterpart.
“Without Saleh, San Francisco may need Garoppolo to shoulder more of an offensive load,” Moton added. “If he’s injured or a subpar performer while healthy, which was the case last season, the 49ers will struggle to even reach the playoffs. This squad has too many variables at play to be considered a top-five Super Bowl favorite.”
“The play-action mechanics jump on Lance’s college tape, and so does his decision-making,” Bowen continued. “In Shanahan’s system, Lance can read it out, making layered throws to intermediate windows and attacking vertically on scripted deep-ball shots. Plus, with the physical element he brings to the position, expect Shanahan to scheme Lance on designed rushes, where he averaged 6.8 yards per carry in 2019.”
“The 49ers will use multiple backs under Shanahan, but Sermon has the upside of a RB1 given his pro running style in a zone-heavy system,” wrote Bowen. “Go to Sermon’s tape versus Northwestern and Clemson last season. That’s where we saw his ability to find daylight, using his one-cut running style on outside zone schemes, plus the contact balance — which is a critical factor at the position.
Running back Wayne Gallman Jr. vs. Elijah Mitchell
Why did the 49ers select a running back with their final pick in the draft over, say, a slot receiver? It was because the 49ers felt Mitchell had the best chance of making the team over anyone else on their draft board.
That probably tells you all you need to know about this competition.
Sure, Gallman Jr. could secure a roster spot over Jeff Wilson Jr., but that seems unlikely. The 49ers know Wilson. They like his toughness and versatility. Gallman also played only 17 snaps on special teams the past two seasons, so he does not bring a lot to the table in the kicking game.
Mitchell could find immediate playing time as a third-down back. He catches passes out of the backfield, and he’s got breakaway speed in the open field.