49ers roster: 5 players who must get off to hot start in 2021

Jimmy Garoppolo #10 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Jimmy Garoppolo #10 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images) /
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Talanoa Hufanga, San Francisco 49ers
Talanoa Hufanga #29 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images) /

No. 4: 49ers Safety Talanoa Hufanga

After emerging as one of San Francisco’s most promising rookies during training camp and the preseason, fifth-round NFL Draft pick Talanoa Hufanga is easily going to be one of the players worth watching early this season.

Granted, there’s only a tiny chance he’ll emerge as the team’s starting safety anytime soon. In the interim, Hufanga is likely to be featured solely on special teams and in various sub packages where the 49ers are getting a little interesting on defense.

Yet Hufanga’s availability and potential to step in right away as a starting-caliber reserve is going to be vital.

Especially given the injury history of starting strong safety Jaquiski Tartt, whose season-ending turf-toe injury last year lingered into training camp and the first two games of the preseason.

Tartt is back healthy, yes. But that toe injury, combined with Tartt’s lengthy injury list over the last four seasons, is going to be something the Niners will ultimately have to monitor. And it’s also possible Tartt is regularly rotated out of the defensive rotation to keep him fresh, too.

Should that be the case, Hufanga will have to carry over his all-over-the-place tendencies displayed during the preseason, potentially into a role where San Francisco can envision him as a long-term starter in the years that follow.