The 49ers are heading into training camp with a lot of optimism surrounding the team and are picked by many to make the playoffs in 2018. With Jimmy Garoppolo under center as the new franchise quarterback, the front office was able to build the rest of the roster in the draft and really get this team ready to compete for a playoff spot. San Francisco was able to add 22 rookies to the team (nine coming through the draft and 13 signing as undrafted free agents). Looking at all 22 rookies, it’s safe to say everyone may not make the team or become household names to the 49er Faithful.
While some of these rookies will become solid depth pieces or future starters on the team, here are three freshman players that are in a good spot to make an immediate impact on the team and earn some playing time for the Niners this coming season.
Three Niner Rookies Destined To Strike Gold In 2018
Mike McGlinchey, Offensive Tackle
Normally, all first-round draft picks are going to be impact rookies for their team and McGlinchey is no exception. The 49ers drafted McGlinchey on day one and then used the morning of day two to send former starting right tackle, Trent Brown, to the Patriots along with a fifth-round pick, in exchange for a third-round pick.
This shows the team’s confidence that McGlinchey will be the front-runner for the starting right tackle position going into the season. McGlinchey was a little overshadowed in draft discussions because he went to the same school as the highly touted guard prospect, Quenton Nelson, who was drafted sixth overall by the Colts. General manager John Lynch himself said it was hard to watch tape of McGlinchey because Nelson was such a phenomenal player.
All jokes aside, what he was able to see on the tape is a plug-and-play starter in the NFL who will be able to handle the next level with ease. Going into training camp, McGlinchey will be on top of the depth chart with Garry Gilliam as his primary backup. McGlinchey has versatility in both zone and gap blocking schemes, so his learning curve in Kyle Shanahan’s offense will not be so steep.
McGlinchey may need to add some more mass to his frame to hold up against NFL defenders, but his technique is sound and he has great athleticism. He can pull out on outside runs, screen passes, and second-level blocks. McGlinchey has the skills to be an All-Pro in the NFL and it won’t take long for him to make an impact for the 49ers.
Fred Warner, Inside Linebacker
The 49ers getting Warner in the third round was a great value selection. Warner may not be the prototypical height and weight for a linebacker, but that didn’t hinder him from playing at a high-level at BYU.
Used as a hybrid linebacker and slot defender, Warner will have no trouble fitting into Robert Saleh‘s defense. Primarily he will be an inside linebacker at the Mike position. Currently, this position is in limbo as the current starter, Reuben Foster, is facing legal issues and his status with the team is unknown. Foster may or may not be suiting up for the 49ers in Week One, but regardless this will be a big position battle between Warner and reserve Brock Coyle to get on the field.
Coyle showed flashes of starting caliber play when he filled in for the injured Foster last season. Most likely this will end up being a platoon situation, but Warner has a greater ability to drop back into coverage than Coyle and that may give him the inside track to getting more playing time.
Another thing that can make Warner a candidate for more snaps would be his instincts when he plays. He has a nose for the football and is constantly pressuring the backfield with his ability to read and react. The question for Warner in the NFL is what his long term position fit will be. He currently is a good hybrid piece to bring in on sub packages but if he wants to play linebacker long term, he will need to bulk up and become more of a wrapup tackler. Wherever he ends up playing on the field, Warner will get snaps on defense and make his name known in the league, sooner rather than later.
Tarvarus McFadden, Cornerback
Richard Sherman may not return to his old self, but he will make his contract completely worth every penny to the 49ers front office with his football IQ. This is where McFadden enters the conversation. The former Florida State Seminole was once regarded as a first-round prospect. He struggled in his final college season leading to him becoming an undrafted free agent and signing with San Francisco.
McFadden is going to be a project, but the talent level is there. He was a finalist for the Bronco Nagurski Award (given to the nation’s best college defender), recording a season-leading eight interceptions as a sophomore. He was also named to the first team for both the All-ACC and the All-American teams.
What happened in 2017 is really surprising as he didn’t continue his progression but instead fell off a cliff, figuratively of course. The things that made him a potential high first-round pick just seemed to disappear and McFadden was consistently getting beat by opposing receivers. The falloff from last season and his underwhelming combine numbers led to McFadden slipping out of the draft.
Coming to San Francisco is the best decision that McFadden could make as he is going to learn from a player like Sherman. Those skills he once flashed can be instilled in him again and he can become a more consistent defender. He even mentioned that in his press conference as to why he chose the Niners over other teams during the post-draft process.
McFadden enters training camp with a lot to prove, but also with a chip on his shoulder by going undrafted. He will face competition with fellow rookies D.J. Reed and Tarvarius Moore but if McFadden can regain his 2016 form, the sky’s the limit for him. He can go down as one of the best undrafted free agent finds.