San Francisco 49ers football is finally upon us. On Thursday, the 49ers will host the Dallas Cowboys for their first preseason game of the 2018 season.

The 2018 49ers could be the most hyped up squad the franchise has had in recent memory. A five-game winning streak with a talented new quarterback to end the previous season will do that. If you hope to get a large dose of quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, or other new key pieces like running back Jerick McKinnon and cornerback Richard Sherman, don't hold your breath. Sherman wont play on Thursday due to a hamstring injury and I'd bet on the starters only getting a series or two of action.

Welcome to the preseason, where the excitement is there for about four plays. However, any hardcore fan knows it doesn't end there. The 49ers 2018 draft class will get a bulk of the work against the Cowboys. Of course everyone wants to watch top selections, tackle Mike McGlinchey, wide receiver Dante Pettis and linebacker Fred Warner.

But what about the players on the field when all the "stars" are on the sideline? The 49ers hit on fifth-round picks in tight end George Kittle, wide receiver Trent Taylor and seventh-round safety Adrian Colbert in 2017. Can they repeat that magic in 2018? Here are three 2018 late round draft selections who you should keep a close eye on during Thursday's match up:

5th-round selection: CB D.J. Reed, Kansas State


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D.J. Reed was selected as a "swiss army knife" of sorts for the 49ers defensive backs group. He can play at any position and has been proving himself to be a valuable part of the 49ers defense during training camp. He has primarily been playing at the nickel CB spot and has taken the first-team reps since presumed starter K'Waun Williams went down with an ankle injury.

Here is Reed against WR Trent Taylor:


Reed certainly has been showing traits of a player who was drafted too low and on Thursday has a chance to show everyone that the 49ers have something special. Keep an eye on #40.

7th-round selection: Defensive Tackle Jullian Taylor, Temple


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Taylor could be the seventh-round gem who contributes for the 49ers in a big way this season. Since joining the team, Taylor has outplayed his draft selection in every way. Playing on the defense's "big end" spot, he hasn't looked like a rookie. With presumed starter Arik Armstead out with an injury, Taylor has stepped in for Armstead and held his own.

49ers defensive standout DeForest Buckner had this to say about the seventh-round pick:


Some pretty big words from the team's best defensive player. Taylor is one for whom to watch.

7th-round selection: WR Richie James, Middle Tennessee State


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Richie James is making things hard for the 49ers coaching staff. The 49ers receiving corps has a lot of talent so cuts to this group will be tough to make in 2018. James seems to strengthen his case with every practice. He is a twitchy, speedy receiver, his route running ability has been extremely impressive and when he gets the ball in his hands he makes plays.


You can see above that his traits are that of someone drafted much higher than the seventh-round. James will also provide value in the special teams department as a returner. Thursday will be a great chance to see if he can put it all together on the field at NFL speed. If he can continue to be impressive, then the 49ers may have struck gold in the seventh-round for the second straight year.