49ers training camp 2021: 4 rookies to watch the most

Trey Lance #5 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
Trey Lance #5 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images) /
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Talanoa Hufanga, San Francisco 49ers
San Francisco 49ers safety Talanoa Hufanga (29) Mandatory Credit: D. Ross Cameron-USA TODAY Sports /

While rookies are always fun to watch in training camp, these four 49ers first-year players should garner the most attention in 2021.

The San Francisco 49ers won’t take the field again until the end of July when the team begins its 2021 training camp sessions.

And while head coach Kyle Shanahan’s squad already partook in rookie minicamp and organized team activities, those practice sessions are of the watered-down variety, prohibiting physical contact and not having any tackling with zero pads.

The intensity will ramp up during training camp, of course. And while every player on the 90-man offseason roster will be under pressure to perform at his highest level, those first-year additions will be the names worth watching the most.

Anyone who’s studied even a fraction of the NFL Draft knows most rookies ultimately flame out and never reach their intended levels of expectations. Despite all the hype they may have had entering draft season, the reality is most will be out of a job within a few years’ time.

Nevertheless, rookie draft picks always garner a little more attention than most other players on the roster, and fans will want to make sure they closely monitor what these four Niners are doing when camp rolls around later this summer.

No. 4: 49ers Safety Talanoa Hufanga

Immediately after he was drafted in Round 5, USC safety Talanoa Hufanga became quite the fan favorite following his media introduction and excitement about joining San Francisco.

While his straight-line speed is a knock against him, the fact Hufanga registered four interceptions and three sacks in just six games for the Trojans last year suggests he has the tools to be a true playmaker at the NFL level.

Judging by one report from Sports Illustrated’s Grant Cohn from OTAs, Hufanga is already figuring out ways to make an impact:

"Intercepted a well-thrown pass from [Trey] Lance during 11-on-11s. Lance hit wide receiver Trent Sherfield in the hands near the sideline, but Hufanga snatched the ball out of Sherfield’s hands before he fell out of bounds. Incredible play. Hufanga finds interesting ways to make an impact."

The 49ers already have their starting safety tandem in place with Jimmie Ward and Jaquiski Tartt. But the depth behind those two is wide open, particularly with defensive back Tarvarius Moore now sidelined with an Achilles tear.

Tartt is a free agent in 2022, too, so Hufanga could potentially be working his way towards an eventual starter’s role in a year’s time.

A strong camp could go a long way in helping determine his long-term fit.