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49ers 2021 Breakout Candidates

The 49ers have put together solid draft classes from 2018 to 2020. Some of these players have already begun to see significant playing time, but still have more to prove.

The San Francisco 49ers have only two players remaining from the initial draft class under the watch of John Lynch and Kyle Shanahan. It just happens that one, George Kittle, has become among the best in the league at his position and the other, D.J. Jones is a dependable rotation piece.

While most of that original draft class has either moved on to other organizations or is now out of the league, the 49ers have put together solid draft classes from 2018 to 2020. Some of these players have already begun to see significant playing time, but still have more to prove. Here are five players to keep your eyes on in 2021.

1) RT Mike McGlinchey

The inclusion of McGlinchey to start this off may be a bit of a surprise considering he has been the starting right tackle since being selected No. 9 in 2018. He makes this list due to not yet fully realizing the expectations that come with being a top-10 draft pick.

McGlinchey has been a solid run blocker, but his pass blocking has left a lot to be desired. This was a concern coming out of college and it has shown on the field. Part of the issue could be the players lining up next to him at right guard. In 2020 the 49ers played musical chairs at right guard throughout the season.

With the 49ers investing a second-round pick on Aaron Banks, the right guard position should be solidified which could lead to an improvement from McGlinchey.

2) WR Brandon Aiyuk

Aiyuk had a solid rookie season, finishing with 748 yard receiving on 60 catches in only 12 games. While the numbers were good, they could have been even better.

So, what happened? Aiyuk was clearly limited by the quarterback play last season. On a number of occasions, he was open down field but the quarterbacks either couldn’t make the throws or chose not to even make an attempt to get it there.

Aiyuk has the ability to be a high-level No. 1 receiver in the NFL. If the 49ers decide to go with Trey Lance at quarterback, look for the second year wideout to put up big numbers.

3) DT Javon Kinlaw

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The 49ers made Kinlaw the 14th selection in the 2020 draft, and the rookie defensive tackle had a bit of an up and down year.

On the positive side, Kinlaw led all 49ers interior defensive linemen in tackles with 33.

On the downside, Kinlaw struggled to generate pressure against the pass, finishing with only 1.5 sacks and 4 quarterback hits, nearly all of which came in the 49ers loss to New Orleans.

After not being able to work with the team until training camp as a rookie due to Covid-19 protocols, Kinlaw was able to work in Santa Clara with coaches and teammates throughout the offseason program. This may help Kinlaw to reach new heights in 2021.

4) LB Dre Greenlaw

Greenlaw has started 22 regular season games through his first two seasons with the 49ers, finishing second on the team in tackles each year.

While Greenlaw has clearly already been playing at a high level, he makes this list due to the change at defensive coordinator. With DeMeco Ryans taking over, a former linebacker himself, look for the 49ers linebackers to become even more involved in the defensive game plans.

Fred Warner is among the best linebackers in coverage throughout the NFL, so when Ryans decides to dial up pressure packages it will likely be Greenlaw that is on the hunt, leading to an increase in sacks and splash plays for the third-year player.

5) WR Jauan Jennings

Kyle Shanahan has shown to have a very specific way that he wants to run his offense, and one of those is having a big bodied third wide receiver. With Kendrick Bourne moving on to New England, someone will need to fill that role.

Jennings, selected by the 49ers in the seventh round of the 2020 draft, will likely be that player. He will face competition from veteran Mohamed Sanu and Jalen Hurd for the role, but Sanu is on the backside of his career and Hurd has yet to show that he can be healthy.

Throughout his college career, Jennings showed the ability to come up with clutch receptions on third down and in the red zone. Look for him to do more of the same for the 49ers in 2021.