Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports


Ranking the 49ers Rookies Based on Projected Playing Time

May 7, 2021 at 1:15 PM0


With the 2021 NFL Draft officially over, the questions have moved on from who the 49ers are drafting to when these newly drafted rookies will see the field.

Last weekend, the 49ers made the bold choice of QB Trey Lance with the No.3 overall pick in the draft. However, just because he was their first selection doesn't mean that he will be the one to see the most playing time out of all the 49ers' rookies.

Sitting in front of him is incumbent starter, Jimmy Garoppolo, and the 49ers have made many reassuring remarks that he will remain their starting quarterback in 2021.

With that in mind, let's rank the 49ers draftees based on projected playing time.



1. OG Aaron Banks


Drafted at No.48 in the second round, Aaron Banks was a somewhat surprising selection for the 49ers. Not only was he drafted a round earlier than projected, but Banks was also an interesting scheme fit with the 49ers, given his limited athleticism, something Kyle Shanahan values in his run-scheme.

However, Banks should play the most of any 49er, as he is currently supposed to start at right guard, a position for which he stated he would be ready with the 49ers.

Last year, the right guard spot was occupied by versatile lineman Daniel Brunskill, who will now return to his role as the swing lineman, a position in which he best works. If an injury were to occur to any starting lineman, Brunskill would be the most likely to slot in at the starter role.

Banks reunites with right tackle Mike McGlinchey on the right side of the line where his pass protection skills should elevate McGlinchey's game in that regard, while McGlinchey's run blocking prowess should help offset the limited athleticism of Banks.

2. RB Trey Sermon


I know. The 49ers have a crowded running back group. But if you read my last article on the running back frenzy in San Francisco, you would know that Sermon is unique to the rest of the group in the backfield.


Trey Sermon provides the ground-and-pound style that Kyle Shanahan likes to go with, but is exceptional inside the hashes, while most of the 49er running backs, like Raheem Mostert and Jeff Wilson Jr., prefer using the outside to display their elusiveness and top-end speed in the open field.

Bringing along Sermon will be a good addition to the 49ers by keeping defenses on alert and creating more opportunities for head coach Kyle Shanahan to devise schemes.

Sermon should see valuable playing time in his first year with his unique skillset and San Fransisco's knack for running the football.

3. CB/S Ambry Thomas


To me, the No.3 on this list was a toss-up between Thomas, the 49ers compensatory third-round selection, and Lance. Ultimately, I chose Thomas due to his versatility and the chance of injury in front of him.

Thomas should be a versatile player in the NFL as he has the tools of a safety, with his smaller arm size, but has the size of a corner, standing at 6'0" and 190 pounds.

To me, it was heartbreaking to see versatile corner Elijah Molden go one pick ahead of the 49ers' selection, but Thomas seems to be a solid selection nonetheless.

While he projects as more of a project player, the 49ers defensive coaching staff should be able to extract the most value from him as a player.

With the injury histories of Jason Verrett, K'Waun Williams, and Jimmie Ward, look for Thomas to hit the field relatively early in 2021, even if it is just on special teams.

4. QB Trey Lance


Trey Lance, the 49ers' third overall selection, slots in at fourth on the list for playing time.

When San Francisco drafted him, it knew that development would be a key part of elevating Lance's game and kept Jimmy Garoppolo, the bridge option who led them to the Super Bowl just two years prior.

With Garoppolo on the field, it is yet to be seen how much Lance will play during the 2021 season. Despite his injury history, San Francisco's much improved offensive line should take off some of the pressure.

Still, Garoppolo's injury history is something that cannot be forgotten, as he has still limited experience as a starter for a full season.

If Garoppolo were to go down with an injury or even fail to produce results with the talented roster around him, look for the 49ers to give Lance the keys.

However, don't get too optimistic, as the 49ers will look to make sure that Lance is fully ready to embrace the NFL field before putting him in that situation.

As Lance himself said during his press conference, he's looking to learn in San Francisco for this upcoming year.

5. S Talanoa Hufanga


Another development-type of pick, Talanoa Hufanga possesses the most potential out of any 49ers' late-round pick in this draft.

Out of USC, Hufanga was an all-around talent who tackled well, was a factor in coverage, and played at the line of scrimmage.

Hufanga projects as a strong safety in the NFL, with the versatility to play in the box, as well as an above-average contributor on special teams.

Heading into a very ideal spot in San Francisco, Hufanga will have the opportunity to be coached up by the defensive staff, primarily new defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans, who was a major factor in the development of All-Pro linebacker Fred Warner.

While Hufanga will take some time to develop, look for the 49ers to potentially take advantage of his versatility and insert him into the lineup at the linebacker position on certain occasions.

6. OT Jaylon Moore


Making it a priority to beef up the offensive line after the injuries to quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo last year, the 49ers drafted tackle Jaylon Moore in addition to Aaron Banks.

Moore fits the mold of what the 49ers want in an offensive lineman: athletic and willing to move out into the second level for blocks.

While the 49ers may have reached on some of their draftees, Moore should be considered a steal given his tackle/guard versatility. Moore projects better in the NFL as a guard, as he is just 311 pounds, with below average arm length.

His agility, however, should make him a solid backup option for a suddenly deep San Francisco offensive line group.

If he were on many other teams, Moore could be getting reps at the guard position, but the depth for the 49ers leaves him to be a high-end backup, with starter potential in 2022.

7. CB Deommodore Lenoir


A surprising pick, the 49ers elected to draft cornerback Deommodore Lenoir in round five of the NFL Draft, taking a chance on his athletic profile.

Lenoir was a cornerback who played physical at Oregon, but came with issues in technique, sparking many penalties.

While his technique is not near an NFL level yet, Lenoir provides depth to the position and has admirable traits with the size to mainly play as a slot corner in the NFL.

Lenoir shouldn't see much playing time in 2021, but has the potential to do so if injuries happen, due to the decreased depth at the cornerback position.

Lenoir's ability with run support could also push him from that zone nickel spot to more of a safety, a move the 49ers will have to consider as his development comes along.

8. RB Elijah Mitchell


When the 49ers drafted Elijah Mitchell in the sixth round, they were already thinking ahead to 2022.

Electing to pass on guard Trey Smith and wide reciever Shi Smith, the 49ers took yet another running back to add to their increased depth at the position.

However, don't expect Mitchell to play much in 2021. Mitchell matches favorably to current starter Raheem Mostert and could be San Francisco's insurance option should Mostert leave in free agency next offseason.

The offensive staff has shown an impressive ability to develop running backs, so it will be intriguing to see what role Mitchell carves out past 2021.

But, with Mostert, Wilson Jr., Sermon, and Wayne Gallman all above him on the depth chart, Mitchell won't see the field apart from potential special teams snaps in 2021.
The views 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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