Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports

Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports


49ers’ second-year players set to have big roles in 2018

Jun 25, 2018 at 12:46 PM


Videos are auto-populated by an affiliate. This site has no control over the videos that appear above.
The 49ers had a lot riding on the 2017 NFL Draft. It was the first ever draft for new GM John Lynch and the beginning of a massive rebuilding project. On the bright side, the 49ers were set up nicely in the 2017 Draft through previous trade and compensation picks. Out of ten total picks, the 2017 draft class produced six projected starters for 2018.

Lynch selected Solomon Thomas as the third overall pick after trading down one spot with the Chicago Bears. After selecting Thomas, the 49ers chose four other players who are projected to start in 2018: LB Reuben Foster, CB Akhello Witherspoon, TE George Kittle and FS Adrian Colbert. Slot WR Trent Taylor could also be included as a sixth starter with the 49ers' offense often using 3 WR sets.

Here's a quick look at those projected starters:

Solomon Thomas


Thomas is currently slated to be a starter primarily at Leo, one of the most important positions on the 49ers' defense. Most onlookers believed that Thomas struggled in his rookie season, but the team and coaches think that he could make a significant impact as early as 2018. The plan is for Thomas to start at Leo on base downs and move him to the inside on pass rushing downs where he could use his speed and quickness as a pass rusher more effectively.

Reuben Foster


Foster has gone through a tumultuous offseason facing domestic violence and additional charges. He faces a possible suspension from the NFL to begin the season, but he is viewed as an impact starter once he hits the field. Last year, he injured his ankle during the first game of the 2017 season against the Carolina Panthers and missed a total of six games. But when he was on the field, Foster's sideline to sideline playmaking ability reminded fans of former 49ers' linebacking greats Patrick Willis and Navarro Bowman.

Ahkello Witherspoon


Witherspoon's 2017 season could easily be described as a roller coaster ride. He was a healthy scratch for the first four games of the season sitting at bottom of the CB depth chart. But Witherspoon, the 49ers' third-round pick, slowly worked his way up and got the opportunity to start in Week 9 against the Philadelphia Eagles in place of Rashard Robinson. Witherspoon had his first career interception and only allowed three receptions on eight targets in the game. He has stood out in the offseason and Defensive Coordinator Robert Saleh said that the "sky is the limit" for the cornerback. Witherspoon is slated to start opposite Richard Sherman at cornerback and has been projected by some to be the 49ers' breakout player in 2018.

Adrian Colbert


Colbert is another 49er who is being talked about as a "player to watch" going into next season. Colbert went from being a seventh-round pick without a true position to starting at free safety by the end of the season. He made an impression on coaches during his six career starts, so much so that the team decided to move Jimmie Ward back to cornerback in the offseason. Pete Prisco of CBS Sports named Colbert as one of his top 10 NFL players to have a breakout season in 2018 and said that "he might be the next great safety in this league".

George Kittle


Kittle went on to record 43 receptions for 515 yards last season after seven starts. Kittle fought through injuries throughout the season but he had his first career 100-yard game against the LA Rams in Week 17. Kittle looks to carry that success over into 2018 as the 49ers' starting tight end.

Trent Taylor


Taylor tied Kittle for 43 receptions during his rookie season and became the 49ers' primary punt returner. He had his best game against the Chicago Bears while amassing 92 yards receiving and made key third down conversions that helped lift the 49ers to victory. Taylor is projected to be the 49ers' primary slot receiver but he will receive competition for snaps from rookie WR Dante Pettis.

Aside from the projected starters, a couple of 2017 UDFAs have found a place on the 49ers' roster. RB Matt Breida and WR Kendrick Bourne have propelled themselves into significant roles on offense. Breida has entrenched himself as the 49ers' number two back and Bourne filled in at wide receiver admirably after Pierre Garçon went on IR with a season-ending neck injury last season.

From top to bottom, the second-year players are poised to have significant roles during the 2018 season. The coaching staff was not afraid to rely on them as rookies last year so they will likely have even more responsibility in their sophomore seasons. Lynch's first rookie class will have a lot of eyes on it once the season begins and it is clear that the team believes that this group is ready to take the leap necessary for the 49ers to be successful in 2018 and beyond.
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.


0 Comments

  • No Comments


More San Francisco 49ers News



49ers sign Renardo Green, Isaac Guerendo, Jacob Cowing to 4-year rookie deals

By David Bonilla
May 9

According to ESPN's Nick Wagoner, the San Francisco 49ers have started signing part of their rookie class. The team inked cornerback Renardo Green from Florida State, running back Isaac Guerendo from Louisville, and wide receiver Jacob Cowing from Arizona to their four-year rookie contracts. #49ers signed three of their draft picks today: CB Renardo Green, RB Isaac Guerendo, WR Jacob Cowing— Nick Wagoner (@nwagoner) May 10,



49ers sign veteran OT Chris Hubbard to a 1-year deal

By David Bonilla
May 14

ESPN's Jeremy Fowler reports that the San Francisco 49ers are signing veteran offensive lineman Chris Hubbard. NFL Media's Ian Rapoport adds that it is a one-year, $1.375 million deal. Source: The #49ers are signing veteran offensive lineman Chris Hubbard. Hubbard started nine games for Tennessee last season before going to IR. Healthy now. Gives San Francisco a viable swing option.— Jeremy Fowler (@JFowlerESPN) May



49ers LB Dre Greenlaw reflects on how his presence might have impacted the Super Bowl

By David Bonilla
May 12

Dre Greenlaw believes he is making significant progress on his road to recovery from the torn Achilles he sustained in the second quarter of the Super Bowl. "It's coming along," Greenlaw shared last week with NBC Sports Bay Area. "It's a long, slow process that you just kind of gotta be ready for every day to wake up and attack whatever it is that I'm trying to work on. And for me, that's, right now, just the strength and the mobility, just trying to get good range of motion in it." Greenlaw isn't predicting a potential date for his return to the football field. He aims to rejoin his teammates early in the upcoming season but will be wise with his recovery. The linebacker has no



An Arsenal of Weapons: The 49ers Have Quietly Become Even More Dangerous on Offense in 2024

By Don Atkinson
May 13

It's not a shock to anyone who looks back at the past two NFL seasons to contemplate that the San Francisco 49ers' offense has finally stepped out of the shadow cast by the team's ever-imposing defense. Since their 2019 Super Bowl run, players like Nick Bosa, Fred Warner, Dre Greenlaw, and former 49ers Richard Sherman and Jimmie Ward have garnered most of the attention when talking about the team. That was indeed the case until 2022, when future Hall-of-Fame running back Christian McCaffrey, who came to San Francisco in a mid-season trade with the Carolina Panthers, changed the conversation. The 49ers' offense was suddenly seen not just as a semi-capable complement to a sterling defense, but rather as a unit that could put up some points, and in a dramatic way. With the


Latest

More by Chaz Inouye

More Articles

Share 49ersWebzone