San Francisco 49ers: 10 best rookie seasons in franchise history

Safety Ronnie Lott #42 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Dan Honda via Getty Images)
Safety Ronnie Lott #42 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Dan Honda via Getty Images) /
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Bryant Young, 49ers
Defensive lineman Bryant Young of the San Francisco 49ers Mandatory Credit: Doug Pensinger /Allsport /

The San Francisco 49ers have had some pretty impressive rookie seasons in their history. Which ones were the best?

The San Francisco 49ers have hoped over the years their top picks in the NFL Draft pan out to be impact players right away.

Of course, teams always hope that their draft picks will turn around and have great impacts right off the bat, but that’s not always the case. Some draft picks just sputter and entirely fail to launch. See, for example, Kentwan Balmer, Rashaun Woods or Kwame Harris.

Others have great careers, but not a great impact right away. Joe Montana didn’t become the primary starter until his third season, and greats like Jesse Sapolu and Frank Gore didn’t become regular starters right off the bat, either.

Sometimes, young players need time to work their way into the lineup, be it due to lack of opportunity or just adjustments needed to excel at an NFL level.

Other times, however, everything clicks right off the bat, a player hits the ground running and never looks back.

That’s what the 49ers are hoping for from all their rookies each and every season.

Here are the 10 greatest rookie seasons in San Francisco 49ers history—the group of players each Niners draftee hopes to join.

Best rookie seasons in San Francisco 49ers history: No. 10: DT, Bryant Young (1994)

It’s rare that a rookie comes in right off the bat and contributes for a Super Bowl-winning team. In recent years, it’s been limited almost solely to the offensive line—the New England Patriots had center Bryan Stork, the Baltimore Ravens had right tackle Kelechi Osmele and the Green Bay Packers had right tackle Bryan Bulaga. Most Super Bowl teams are so deep that rookies don’t really have a chance to make a big impact off the bat.

Bryant Young bucked that trend out of Notre Dame.

He immediately won a starting job in 1994 next to Dana Stubblefield on the inside, replacing the departed Ted Washington.

Young then responded by being named the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year, recording six sacks and leading the line with 49 tackles as he helped destroy interior offensive lines.