With the San Francisco 49ers drafting an NFL-high 12 draft picks in this year’s draft, they certainly had the ammo to trade up. However, that was not the case, and as a result 12 players will be looking to solidify their spot on the 49ers 53-man roster. Whether drafting for depth, speed, or value, Niners GM Trent Baalke swung for the fences and hit home runs on many selections. But the question remains, how will these rookies fare in their first season of NFL action? While, 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh typically doesn’t start rookies in Week 1 as FS Eric Reid has been the lone exception, what should the Forever Faithful expect from their 2014 rookie draft class? Here are five bold predictions for the upcoming season, as many of these rookies will make a splash while holding their own when their name is called.
Analysis: Hyde will cement himself as the short-yardage running back. That’s right, Hyde will not only replace departed RB Anthony Dixon on goal-line packages but also be the power running back between the tackles on third-and-short. A bowling ball that loves contact, look for Hyde to score at least five touchdowns in his rookie season while also being a dual-threat out of the backfield.
Analysis: Borland will be a special-teams ace and lead the team in tackles. Special-teams tackles that is. Borland brings the same passion, work ethic, and skill-set that LB Blake Costanzo had when he was with the team in 2011 before departing for the Chicago Bears. The only difference is Borland can also be a valuable two-down linebacker while Costanzo was primarily a special-teams ace. Look for Borland to make some eye-popping tackles as he streaks downfield with pure hustle and determination.
3. WR Bruce Ellington will lead team in return yardage
Analysis: Ellington will lead the team in return yardage while taking over both kickoff and punt return duties. Ellington has the 4.4 speed to overtake RB LaMichael James punt return duties while also doubling on kickoffs. An elusive player with the athleticism to match, look for Ellington to make a splash starting in the pre-season as his shiftiness will not go unnoticed.
4. DB Jimmie Ward will win nickel back role
Analysis: Ward will certainly be in a tough camp battle as he tries to overtake the two men in front of him in CB Darryl Morris and CB Perrish Cox, however I believe he will. A very versatile player that can also play strong safety and free-safety it’s Ward’s ballhawking skills that separates himself from the rest of the pack. A natural playmaker look for Ward to create some much needed turnovers for the 49ers defense as offenses will test him early in the season.
5. ILB Shayne Skov will make practice-squad if he clears waivers
Analysis: Coming from the Farm, Skov is already familiar with the 49ers coaching staff which is one of the reasons he chose San Francisco over Bay Area rival Oakland Raiders. And despite the log-jam at the linebacker position, look for Skov to strike it rich on the practice squad as he will be a valued insurance policy if he clears waivers once released as a final 53-man roster cut.