San Francisco 49ers: 5 Reasons for Hope in 2016
By Peter Panacy
No. 5: Up-and-Coming Players Like Jimmie Ward and Jaquiski Tartt
Say what you want about general manager Trent Baalke and his draft strategy in recent seasons but, in spite of some numerous gaffes, Baalke has more than a few draftees capable of turning some heads this season.
Defensive backs Jimmie Ward and Jaquiski Tartt are two perfect examples of this.
Ward’s rookie season in 2014 was pretty awful. Fans recall him being burned by Chicago Bears wide receiver Brandon Marshall a couple of years back. And Ward’s foot injury that year didn’t help matters much either — not a good look for San Francisco’s former first-round pick.
But Ward turned a page in 2015 and ended up finishing the year with a plus-4.8 overall grade, according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required), which was highest among all Niners defensive backs.
Ward now enters 2016 poised to be the 49ers’ No. 2 cornerback opposite Tramaine Brock. We’ll see if Ward can continue his upward trend, but signs are looking good so far.
Similar to Ward’s rookie struggles, Tartt also had his share of issues in his first year at the pro level.
Tartt finished 2015 with a minus-8.7 pass-coverage grade, per PFF, and a minus-6.8 mark overall. But the former second-round pick of the Niners has a full season under his belt and, if the 49ers look to utilize him as a hybrid safety/linebacker-type player, the versatility might make Tartt one of the more intimidating defenders in the game.
Young defensive backs tend to struggle early in their NFL careers, so there’s more than enough reason to suggest Tartt could come on strong his second season.
Just like Ward did.
Next: Joshua Garnett and the Revamped Offensive Line