With the offseason beginning for the San Francisco 49ers, Niner Noise grades the performance of every rookie from the 2018 NFL Draft class.
Where the 2017 NFL Draft class regressed, the 2018 class took a huge step forward. Well, that was the theme of the San Francisco 49ers season this year. In nearly every single place with a rookie and a second-year player, the rookie was the one finishing out the season.
At linebacker, Reuben Foster got moved off the MIKE spot by Fred Warner before Foster got released by the team. At cornerback, with Ahkello Witherspoon struggling throughout the season and eventually getting injured, rookie Tarvarius Moore came in with a great effort. Adrian Colbert at safety missed quite a few reads before he got hurt, allowing not only D.J. Reed but also Marcell Harris to come in and contend for one of those two positions. And finally, wide receiver Richie James basically removed Trent Taylor as the slot wide receiver, although that hold is far more tenuous.
It’s these events that caused head coach Kyle Shanahan to implicitly make almost every single position on the roster available, stating (h/t NBC Sports Bay Area) that “it makes me a lot more excited about going into OTAs and training camp to where there really aren’t many penciled-in starters.”
Now, despite all the praise being heaped upon the 49ers rookies for pushing the second-year players, none of them were slam-dunk perfect picks. Many of them played well, yes, but there is a lot of growth necessary for this team to progress.
With that in mind, we’ll begin the complete rookie grades. Keep in mind that, although quarterback Nick Mullens did get his first action this year in the NFL, on the 49ers official roster, he is listed as a second-year player, so he won’t be making this list.
Before we actually do begin, I want to explain my criteria. First of all, this is completely based on how a player actually played. Now, that would seem pretty obvious, but this is important to clarify regarding draft position. I’m not gonna grade a first-round pick differently than a seventh-round pick.
Now, of course, you would expect the first-round pick to do exceptional, while the seventh rounder not so much, but these grades are objective. They aren’t based upon expectations, but rather just tape and stats. It’s easier to think that they all were undrafted free agents for these rankings. After all, no one cares that tight end George Kittle was a fifth-round pick anymore, or that running back Matt Breida was undrafted. Pedigree doesn’t matter for grades.
But still, I’ll mention the draft round, just so you know where they were taken.