With the San Francisco 49ers set to hold their rookie minicamp from May 23-25, it will be a camp in which many rookies will get their chance to shine. The 49ers who have a 12-man rookie draft class with numerous undrafted rookies trickled in, the question remains who will stand out of the bunch? I have identified five players who will not only showcase their talent but fight for playing time with the seasoned veterans. So without further ado, the five players to watch are:
1. DB Jimmie Ward
Analysis: Despite Ward being a free-safety in college, Ward was drafted to be the 49ers primary nickel corner. A position he played while at Northern Illinois as his fluid hips allowed him to stay stride for stride with wide receivers, Ward held his own. A tough task as CB Carlos Rogers was routinely beat by quicker and shiftier receivers, Ward should have an easier time as his strength and speed will allow him to blanket receivers right off the line. Look for Ward to show off his pass coverage as he should have a few pass-breakups to go along with an interception or two in team drills.
2. RB Carlos Hyde
Analysis: The player known as “El Guapo” will need to show running backs coach Tom Rathman that he can be the short-yardage role player. At 6-0 and 230 pounds, Hyde easily becomes the biggest running back on the 49ers roster while possessing the light feet to make tacklers miss. A between the tackles runner, look for Hyde to turn some heads as he should have an outstanding rookie camp.
3. C Marcus Martin
Analysis: Martin mainly played center at USC but with G Mike Iupati’s contract extension in limbo, Martin may be next in line to replace the All-Pro guard. A player that can anchor the point of attack while using his leverage/strength to shield running lanes, Martin should be the odds on favorite to be the primary backup at both center and guard positions. Look for Martin to just dominate the competition in rookie camp as his rare blend of athleticism and strength will put others to shame.
4. ILB Chris Borland
Analysis: Borland may not wow you with his measurables or stature but more than makes up for it with his football savvy and competitiveness. A typical Harbaugh player, look for Borland to win over the coaching staff with his attention to detail while making a splash on special-teams coverage unit.
5. ILB Shayne Skov
Analysis: The undrafted Stanford product will look to make a name for himself in a heated camp battle with Borland. A spot that is wide open due to ILB NaVorro Bowman’s injury, look for Skov to try and supplant ILB Michael Wilhoite as the week one starter. Not a “speed demon” by any stretch of the imagination, as Skov openly admitted to it, he should nonetheless make everyone around him better as he’s a “dynamic” player according to him.