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Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

49ers may have two rookies starting in 2022

Aug 13, 2022 at 7:55 AM--

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Once drafted, rookies have an uphill battle to become a starter. Usually, first and second-round picks are a lock to start, but with the San Francisco 49ers, that hasn't necessarily been the case unless your name is Nick Bosa (first-round pick, 2019) or Deebo Samuel (second-round pick, 2019).

In 2020, the 49ers selected two first-round picks, defensive tackle Javon Kinlaw and wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk, and their time was limited as rookies. Aiyuk became a starter due to injuries in the wide receivers room, and in 2021, his role was diminished when he started the season in head coach Kyle Shanahan's dog house, and he could barely crack the starting lineup. Kinlaw was considered the replacement for DeForest Buckner, but he couldn't stay on the field during his rookie and sophomore seasons due to injuries. However, both players from that draft had flashes of being great for the 49ers in their limited roles.

In 2021, the 49ers drafted quarterback Trey Lance with the third overall pick in the draft, and offensive lineman Aaron Banks in the second round. Lance was limited to two starts as he developed behind then-starter Jimmy Garoppolo. Banks essentially redshirted his rookie season, seeing very limited action on the field. When Shanahan drafts players, it usually takes them a season or two to get accustomed to the 49ers' way.

Throughout training camp this season, two rookies have made strides, while standing out and trending towards possible starting roles. The 49ers drafted guard Spencer Burford from UTSA in the fourth round. Burford has played with the first unit at the right guard position all of training camp. He also started at right guard during the preseason game against the packers.

"You only notice when someone messes up, if not, you're looking down field," Shanahan said. "So I know he had a couple mistakes today, like they all did. But it was good to have him out there, get that playing time for three quarters and you can't do that enough with rookies, especially rookie O-lineman."

With Daniel Brunskill getting snaps at center and Burford's upward progression, Burford may be a lock as the starting right guard for the 49ers.

In the fifth round of the 2022 draft, the 49ers selected cornerback Samuel Womack III out of Toledo. All camp long, Womack ran with the second unit as the nickel back until the last couple of practices. Though Womack didn't start at the nickel back position in the preseason game against the Packers, he was the most impressive. Womack intercepted Packers quarterback Jordan Love two times in the game. When questioned at the presser, Womack III was asked if he felt like he raised his level of play when the lights were on.

"Most definitely," Womack responded. "I feel like I had a great game tonight. I still have stuff I have to learn from and get better at, but I feel like I took advantage of my opportunities."

Will fourth and fifth-round picks Spencer Burford and Samuel Womack III be starters in week one of 2022? If they continue to progress during the preseason, my answer is yes. Impressing Shanahan isn't easy. He pays attention to all the details. During his presser, Shanahan was asked about Womack.

"I'd like to watch the tape," the coach said. "I know when you get two picks, that's a big deal. You come up with those picks, that's a hell of a start, but we will see what he did on the other 40 plays."

According to Shanahan, it's difficult for rookies to step into any job. Though rookies seem unlikely to start for the 49ers, the sky is the limit for these two first-year players.
  • Written by:
    Wayne Breezie is a 49ers content creator. He had his first guest appearance on Ronbosports in 2012. He began writing for a Facebook group called the League of the 49ers. Next, he began writing for Nothing But Niners in 2017. In 2018, Wayne Breezie made his debut on YouTube’s Nothing But Niners show. In 2019, he started his podcast called Nitty Gritty Niners. After putting the pen down for several years, Breezie saw an opportunity to write for His first published article was in January of 2022 with 49ersCap, and he currently writes and produces weekly podcasts.
The opinions within this article are those of the writer and, while just as important, are not necessarily those of the site as a whole.


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