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Sometimes, the answer to which rookie will be most successful during Year 1 is obvious, as was the case in 2019. But in 2020, when the 49ers replaced DeForest Buckner with Javon Kinlaw, many, including myself, figured Kinlaw would hit the ground running.
The 2021 draft class may be the best example. We still don’t know what to make of the quarterback, while the fifth-round safety from that class emerged as an All-Pro during his first season as a starter.
The point is the answer is never as obvious as it seems. The 49ers traded up to select Ji’Ayir Brown in this year’s draft. But he’d have to jump veteran Tashaun Gipson, who is coming off an excellent season, to start.
Jake Moody will be afforded ample opportunities to put points on the board as a rookie. But selecting a kicker feels like taking the easy way out — even if it’s the correct answer.
Cameron Latu feels like the type of pick that’s a year or two away from producing. When you look at the current weapons on the 49ers, it’d be difficult for him to steal targets away from the likes of George Kittle, Christian McCaffrey, Deebo Samuel, and Brandon Aiyuk. The same goes for Ronnie Bell at receiver.
The chance for Robert Beal Jr., Dee Winters, or Jalen Graham to earn a role on defense is there for the taking. The 49ers didn’t replace Azeez Al-Shaair during free agency, while Samson Ebukam and Charles Omenihu’s “replacements” were brought in on minimum contracts.
Darrell Luter could be a better scheme fit in Steve Wilks’ defense than the incumbent cornerbacks. He’s a better athlete than Deommodore Lenoir. Luter Jr. might be the wild card.
Between all the rookies, who do you feel is in the best position to succeed during their first season?