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Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports


49ers Draft Class Set to Elevate Franchise

Levin T. Black
Aug 12, 2019 at 6:00 AM


Something truly special may be brewing for the San Francisco 49ers. The 2019 draft class shined in the first preseason game on Saturday.

If that game is a sign of what is to come, the 2019 class could be the catalyst to a new era for the franchise. An era of winning consistently.

Sure, it is very early. So much is still unknown. So much could still alter the course. The sky is the limit though. It's not just about the quality shown so far but the quantity as well.

Let's start with a quick note on the team's first overall pick Nick Bosa, who didn't play on Saturday. Yes, he's currently hurt and that is becoming a growing concern. That said, Bosa was impressing in his first training camp before an ankle injury sidelined him. Nothing else needs to be said on Bosa other than this quote from Joe Staley that comes via Matt Barrows at The Athletic.

"He's a really talented player and he's going to have an unbelievable career," the Pro Bowl left tackle said. "And I have no doubt of that and how great he can be in the NFL."

Moving on to the draftees who played in Saturday's game, many flashed tantalizing potential. The rookie wide receivers, who were taken with the 49ers' second and third picks, especially stood out.

Second round pick Deebo Samuel wasn't perfect but one play in particular showed exactly why he was the selection for general manager John Lynch and head coach Kyle Shanahan.


Samuel gets behind his man and could have scored with a better thrown ball. He slowed down and timed his jump to get above the defender and snag the pass. This type of physicality is why he's on the team. It's something the 49ers lacked last season once Pierre Garçon got hurt.

Samuel is clearly still learning Shanahan's complicated offense. He was a step slow at times on Saturday but that should be expected in a rookie's first preseason game. It's safe to say Samuel will be starting come Week One.

The other receiver, Jalen Hurd, is the talk of the game, however. He scored both 49ers touchdowns. He trucked a safety to get into the endzone on a short crossing route and high pointed the ball on a fade route in the red zone for his two scores.

His potential is extreme. I tweeted about this on Sunday.


He has a long way to go to reach Calvin Johnson's level. No one should expect it and it is doubtful Hurd ever reaches that rarefied air considering so few receivers ever have.

That said, the potential is certainly there and in Shanahan he has one of the best offensive minds in the NFL helping him.

Simply put, Hurd looked further along as a receiver than many expected considering he was a running back a few years ago.

Hurd's opportunity to become a main feature of the offense increased recently. Assumed main slot receiver, Trent Taylor, had surgery on one of his toes and is out until at least Week One.

According to Pro Football Focus' Jeff Delaney, Hurd ran 96 percent of his routes from the slot in his lone season as a receiver in college. He has at least the next month to prove himself and potentially push Taylor out as the main slot option.

This is not to say Taylor would he completely forgotten. He is a favorite target for quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo. He just may not see the field as often as expected before the injury.

In the first preseason game 49ers fourth- and fifth-round selections impressed as well. Punter Mitch Wishnowsky showed why the 49ers took a punter so early. He had three of six punts downed inside the opponent's 20, averaged 49.5 yards per punt and boomed one 64 yards. The 49ers may just have the league's best punter.

As for linebacker Dre Greenlaw, he made some big stops for the defense and frequently flashed his speed and hitting ability. He did blow a coverage for a big gain but he's a rookie and mistakes can be learned from. It's what the preseason is for.

Greenlaw also showed he could be big on special teams.


That's Greenlaw 50 yards downfield laying the hit on the returner. Greenlaw will play as a rookie. The only question is: will he start?

To put it simply, the 49ers' first five picks all look like contributors this season and each one has shown potential to be quality starters in the NFL.

It's very early and I don't want to go too far. Potential is only potential. The rookies still have to fulfill all that upside and that is easier said than done.

Still, when you sprinkle in potential depth pieces sixth-round pick tight end Kaden Smith and sixth-round pick offensive lineman Justin Skule with the other five mentioned, you have the type of draft class championships could come from.
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.


1 Comment

  • edemex
    justin is not a 7th, he is a 6th round, 183 pick. you also forgot tim harris 6rd pick 196. i actually think harris has a better chance than justin. justin imo is not a good fit with the 9ers, 9ers play zone blocking. tim harris fits perfectly and if he can stay healthy he can be a good corner
    Aug 12, 2019 at 3:22 PM
    1

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