Projecting the Impact from the 49ers' Non-First-Round Rookies
Between 2017 and 2019, the 49ers made a total of 27 draft selections. Of those 27 draftees, a remarkable 23 of them have played regular season snaps for the team. That number could potentially go up to 25, if both Jalen Hurd and Tim Harris make the 53-man roster.
The only players to never play a meaningful snap after being drafted are Joe Williams and Kaden Smith. Williams was placed on IR going into his rookie season, then was cut the following year. Smith was cut going into his rookie season, and is the only player drafted by John Lynch to be released going into Year 1.
However, it has been a lot easier to make the roster in the past. Things are certainly different now, as the roster is in tip-top shape. Nonetheless, cutting only one draftee out of 27 is a pretty telling stat. Lynch and Kyle Shanahan simply love to hold on to the players they’ve invested draft capital in, especially going into their rookie year. They at least want to get a taste of their investment.
This does not guarantee roster spots for rookies Colton McKivitz, Charlie Woerner, or Jauan Jennings. But it does make it seem like the front office will do what they can to find them a spot on the team.
Here’s what to expect from each non-first round rookie:
Colton McKivitz (Round 5 / Pick 153):
There is a lot to love about McKivitz. He is a massive offensive lineman, who brings versatility to the table. Over the course of his career at West Virginia, McKivitz started a full season at both left tackle and right tackle.
McKivitz projects to be a guard in Shanahan’s offense, but having the tackle background certainly helps his cause. McKivitz ran a 5.35 40-yard dash, which is why he is a better fit for the interior of the offensive line.
“Personally, (I think) I’m a prick. I like to get inside guys’ heads. I think that’s one of the biggest things. If I can get him to think about me rather than (the offense), then I know I’m winning. That’s the one things I really enjoy about it.” - McKivitz on his playing style, during an interview with Larry Krueger , Dennis Brown, and Adam Copeland on KNBR 680.
The physicality McKivitz plays with meshes perfectly with the offense. Expect McKivitz to make the team as the eighth or ninth offensive lineman, and eventually get some playing time on the interior of the offensive line.
If a scenario unfolds where either a guard gets hurt or Trent Williams or Mike McGlinchey get hurt, the team may move Dan Brunskill to tackle and then fill that void with McKivitz.
McKivitz is under contract for four seasons, and is set to make a total of $3.6M. He is a solid lineman to groom for the future, and his ceiling appears to be worthy of a starting guard. With Laken Tomlinson set to be a free agent in 2022, grooming McKivitz for two years may be the perfect solution.
Charlie Woerner (Round 6 / Pick 190):
Jordan Reed seems more of a threat to Ross Dwelley than Charlie Woerner. Woerner is in line to take over Levine Toilolo’s run-blocking-specialist position, which played an important role in the ground game last year. Toilolo played a total of 232 offensive snaps, where he was utilized as a run blocker on 172 of them.
Levine Toilolo ‘19 season (13 games):
- Offensive Snaps: 232
- Run Blocking Snaps: 172
- Receiving Snaps: 33
- Pass Blocking Snaps: 27
Ross Dwelley ‘19 season (16 games):
- Offensive Snaps: 377
- Run Blocking Snaps: 192
- Receiving Snaps: 157
- Pass Blocking Snaps: 25
Behind Kittle and potentially a healthy Jordan Reed, Woerner won’t “wow” anybody in the passing game. At least not as a rookie. However, expect him to have an impact as a run blocker. Woerner should make the team as the third tight end regardless. It’ll either be Kittle, Dwelley, and Woerner. Or, if the Reed experiment works out, Kittle, Reed, and Woerner.
Jauan Jennings (Round 7 / Pick 217):
A benefit of not having a preseason is that you have a much better chance of assembling your ideal practice squad. Jauan Jennings plays the position where there is the most competition in regards to roster spots, and may find himself on the outside looking in with this shortened offseason.
Stashing Jennings on the practice squad becomes a lot more realistic, without other teams having the opportunity to evaluate his preseason performance. This is great news for the 49ers, because Jennings can play.
Like McKivitz and Woerner, Jennings also has a very physical playing style. At 6’3”, Jennings led all college wide receivers in forcing missed tackles with 30. He accomplished that while playing in the SEC. His ability to pick up additional yards after the catch fits the bill perfectly for what receivers are asked to do in Shanahan’s offense.
The best case scenario for Jennings is that he beats out Trent Taylor or Dante Pettis for the sixth receiver spot, or the team moves Deebo Samuel to the PUP list, opening an additional roster spot to begin the year.
Even without a preseason, attempting to stash Jennings on the practice squad is still too risky. Especially considering the high ceiling he possesses specifically in Shanahan’s offense. I believe Jennings will have a strong NFL career, as the talent is absolutely there. I don’t see Shanahan letting go of Jennings, but it may take some time for him to eventually make an impact.
Looking ahead, I predict all five draft picks will make the 49ers' final roster. That would lead to 30 of Lynch’s 32 draft picks having made the team's regular season roster.
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