49ers

49ers draft picks face stiff head-to-head training camp competitions

49ers draft picks face stiff head-to-head training camp competitions

The 49ers are counting on immediate and significant production from their 2020 NFL Draft class.

Those are the expectations of a team that replaced two of their top veteran departures with first-round draft picks.

The incoming class of five draft picks will have to earn their roles, and they will undoubtedly have a truncated offseason and/or training camp to do it.

South Carolina defensive tackle Javon Kinlaw steps in to replace DeForest Buckner, who was sent to Indianapolis in a trade. And Arizona State wideout Brandon Aikyk is being counted upon to pick up the slack for the departure of Emmanuel Sanders to New Orleans as a free agent.

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Here’s a look at the top competitions that face the 49ers’ 2020 draft class in their rookie seasons:

Javon Kinlaw vs. Solomon Thomas

Kinlaw, the No. 14 overall pick, is a starter at defensive tackle. No question.

But will Kinlaw win the right to be on the field as an inside pass rusher on a critical third-down play in the fourth quarter?

Kinlaw registered six sacks as a senior. Solomon Thomas had 8.5 sacks in his final year at Stanford. But in 46 career NFL games, Thomas has just six sacks after arriving as the No. 3 overall pick in 2017.

Still, Thomas' teammates put his quickness at the snap near the same level as Dee Ford. He could make his biggest contribution as an inside pass-rusher. The 49ers declined to pick up the fifth-year option on Thomas for the 2021 season, but he still figures to play an important role as a rotational player this season and remain with the club.

While Kinlaw learns what’s expected of him on base downs, he will have to earn his way into a role as an immediate three-down player.

Brandon Aiyuk vs. Kendrick Bourne

Unlike when the 49ers’ coaching staff had confidence in only three wide receivers toward the end of last season, the club should have better depth this year.

There should be plenty of playing time for a handful of the team’s receivers, including rookie Brandon Aikyuk, Deebo Samuel, Kendrick Bourne and Trent Taylor, if healthy.

The 49ers had Aiyuk rated nearly as high as draft prospect CeeDee Lamb. General manager John Lynch traded up from No. 31 to No. 25 to make sure Kyle Shanahan got the receiver with whom he became smitten during the draft process.

But Bourne has been in this system for three seasons. Aiyuk will certainly have a role on offense, but will Bourne still be the better option for most of the playbook? Bourne should have a head start when the competition begins due to his familiarity with Shanaahn's scheme.

The 49ers like Aiyuk because of his versatility. So, on third downs, will Aiyuk or Bourne line up outside? Or will Aiyuk or Taylor take most of the snaps in the slot? How much Aiyuk plays as a rookie will be based on how quickly he adapts.

Colton McKivitz vs. Daniel Brunskill

The 49ers will have a new starting right guard this season after the club made the decision to release veteran Mike Person in March.

The competition at right guard was originally seen as a head-to-head battle involving Daniel Brunskill and Tom Compton, whom the 49ers signed as a free agent. Compton turns 31 next month. He started 10 games or more just once in his eight-year career. The 49ers will be his sixth team in six years.

The more likely competition seems to feature Brunskill and Colton McKivitz. 

The 49ers had their eyes on McKivitz, the West Virginia left tackle, in the fourth round as a possible replacement for Joe Staley. They ended up selecting McKivitz in the fifth round.

His better NFL position might be guard. Brunskill has the ability to start at all the guard and tackle positions. He performed well last season at whichever position the 49ers needed him. As with all the returners, Brunskill's time in the system gives him the early advantage.

[RELATED: How 49ers' depth chart looks after offseason developments]

Jauan Jennings vs. Jalen Hurd

Jalen Hurd and Jauan Jennings are big wide receivers the 49ers have selected in the draft in back-to-back years.

Jennings is a tough wide receiver whose skillset seems to overlap, to a degree, with the 49ers’ original plan for Hurd.

Hurd, of course, did not see any action as a rookie due to a stress fracture in his back. He was recently cleared and apepars to be on pace to compete for a major role in the 49ers’ offense.

Jennings plays wide receiver like a middle linebacker. He lasted until the seventh round of the draft because of questions about his 4.72 speed in the 40, and whether he has any chance to create separation against NFL defensive backs.

These two large, physical wide receivers, are likely to be going head-to-head for the same identity in Shanahan's system.

Kyle Shanahan sees Jordan Reed as big 49ers contributor, if healthy

Kyle Shanahan sees Jordan Reed as big 49ers contributor, if healthy

Veteran tight end Jordan Reed seemingly is taking a huge risk with designs on a return to football after sustaining a seventh documented concussion a year ago.

But it is a risk that could pay off big for Reed and the 49ers this season, his first NFL coach said on Monday.

Kyle Shanahan was in his final season as Washington’s offensive coordinator during Reed’s first season after entering the league as a second-round draft pick. Now, Shanahan and Reed are back together after Reed agreed to a one-year contract on Monday.

“I know he hasn’t been on the field for a little bit. I know he’s very hungry to get back out there,” Shanahan said.

“When you have a talented guy who’s hungry to play football, it works out if they can stay healthy. And Jordan has had some bad luck over the years. I know he’s ready to go. I hope he has some good luck here. And if he does, I think it’s going to be a hell of a deal for the Niners and a really good deal for him, also.”

[49ERS INSIDER PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

Reed, 30, has appeared in just 65 games over the past seven seasons with Washington. He has 329 career receptions for 3,371 yards and 24 touchdowns. His best season came in 2015, when he saw action in 14 games and caught 87 passes for 952 yards and 11 touchdowns.

He did not play last season after sustaining a concussion in a preseason game. The Washington Football Team released him in February.

“Everyone is aware of Jordan’s ability,” Shanahan said. “When he’s been healthy, he’s played at an extremely high level. And he’s been one of the first third-down tight ends in the league when he’s been healthy.”

[RELATEDShanahan optimistic 49ers, Kittle will get contract done]

Shanahan said he typically likes to bring six tight ends to training camp. It was a little more difficult this summer because teams have to trim to 80 players instead of the usual 90-man limits. But the 49ers found a way to add Reed, who figures to join a competition to become George Kittle’s backup.

Reed will compete with Ross Dwelley, Daniel Helm and sixth-round draft pick Charlie Woerner for the backup job.

“It's well-documented that he’s had multiple concussions prior,” 49ers general manager John Lynch said. “So in situations like this, there’s a reason that a guy like Jordan Reed is out there, right? There is some risk-reward. We got to a point where we felt the risk that we’re taking on was worth it with the potential reward.”

Trent Williams thrilled 49ers signed former teammate Jordan Reed

Trent Williams thrilled 49ers signed former teammate Jordan Reed

Trent Williams isn't the only former Washington Football Team player joining the 49ers this offseason.

San Francisco signed free agent tight end Jordan Reed to an incentive-laden one-year contract on Monday, hoping to put a steady backup behind All-Pro George Kittle. Formerly a third-round draft pick by Washington in 2013, Reed was a teammate of Williams in the nation's capital for each of the past six seasons. Williams expressed his excitement for Reed on his Instagram story Monday afternoon.

[49ERS INSIDER PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

A Pro Bowl selection in 2016, Reed missed all of the 2019 season after getting a concussion in the third preseason game against the Atlanta Falcons. Like Williams, Reed finished the 2019 season on injured reserve. Washington released Reed in February.

Reed could see his role increased significantly early on with the 49ers if Kittle's contract negotiations continue to stall, as general manager John Lynch didn't give much of an update Monday on the conversations.

[RELATED: 49ers rule D.J. Reed out for year after surgery on torn pec]

“We’re working diligently to come to a resolution,” Lynch told reporters over Zoom on Monday afternoon.

Reed's concerning history with concussions wasn't lost on Lynch, but the 49ers clearly see the upside in a tight end with four 50+ catch seasons out of his six healthy NFL seasons.

“It's well-documented that he’s had multiple concussions prior,” 49ers general manager John Lynch said. “So in situations like this, there’s a reason that a guy like Jordan Reed is out there, right? There is some risk-reward. We got to a point where we felt the risk that we’re taking on was worth it with the potential reward.”