No. 1: 49ers Safety Jared Mayden
Maybe it wouldn’t be too big a shocker, but it still would be something of a surprise.
The Niners asked then-second-year pro safety Marcell Harris to fill in as a starter for the defense last year in the wake of Jaquiski Tartt’s four-game injury absence due to a ribs injury. And while Harris still managed to perform well against the run, which was his forte at the college level, he was still a notable liability in coverage, and San Francisco’s pass defense suffered because of it.
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Especially during that Week 14 matchup against the New Orleans Saints when Harris surrendered two early touchdowns.
That alone opens up the door for yet another UDFA, former Alabama safety Jared Mayden, who was largely overshadowed last year by his then-teammate, Xavier McKinney, yet still managed to earn some serious nods as a player with plenty of promise and potential.
Considering where the 49ers are, in terms with playoff and Super Bowl aspirations, it would make sense to go with the experience, Harris, instead of developmental talent, Mayden.
Yet Mayden has a lot of upside, and Kyle Shanahan won’t hesitate to simply give roles to whoever is doing the best to achieve them.
And in this case, Mayden could win out and wind up being a primary backup behind Tartt this season.