1. Richie James
I’ll put it out there off the bat, I did not think Richie James would have the preseason he’s had.
I mean in fairness to myself I don’t think anyone had, but not many people write for a 49ers webpage where they used the phrase “outside, looking in” to describe James.
On my article on ranking the draft choices by immediate impact (almost a sort of rough copy of this present article) I had James seventh of the nine rookies, and remember Street was already out for the year. I concluded with:
"Unfortunately, with the returning Pierre Garcon, Marquise Goodwin, Trent Taylor, the intriguing Kendrick Bourne and second-round draftee, Dante Pettis, James may be lost in the shuffle somewhat. Being small and fast, James could still make the roster as a return specialist and work his way to getting some offensive snaps with some plays drawn up for him. Unfortunately, he looks like he could be on the outside looking in."
Well boy, did James do that quickly.
While James did return one kick (for 33 yards no less), he flashed incredible ability on offense. Not only did he get a target from Garoppolo, but he reeled in four passes for the game.
Niner Noise breaks it down again:
"He had four receptions for 46 yards, including the game-winning touchdown with 18 seconds left. Per PFF, 49ers quarterbacks had a 150.4 passer rating on the night when targeting him. He showed an ability to get open down the field, but also an ability to make things happen on shorter passes."
James was acting like a rabid dog in the rookie minicamp, standing out with his aggression and physicality despite his small stature.
It carried on when the team came together and the pads went on, and carried on still against actual opposition.
At this rate, there is zero doubt James makes the active roster. There is not a chance he would get past waivers otherwise.
Pettis hasn’t exactly been a slouch, but James has far been the best rookie receiver for the Niners thus far.
That makes him the top rookie in the power rankings this early.