49ers roster: 4 rookie backups who’ll be starting by end of 2021

Trey Lance #5 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Trey Lance #5 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. 3: 49ers Safety Talanoa Hufanga

Injuries are another prime reason why another one of San Francisco’s fifth-round NFL Draft picks, former USC safety Talanoa Hufanga, winds up getting a starter’s role by the time 2021 comes to an end.

As is the case at cornerback, the 49ers have two injury-prone starting safeties, Jimmie Ward and Jaquiski Tartt, the latter still dealing with the effects of a season-ending turf-toe injury suffered a year ago. And with Tartt landing on injured reserve in three of the last four years, there seems to be a good chance the Niners have to count on their safety depth a lot in 2021.

True, Hufanga is also looking at veteran safety Tavon Wilson, who could potentially be the go-to option if either Ward or Tartt suffers a serious lengthy injury.

Yet Hufanga was the splashier of the two players during the preseason, and his shown ability to play down towards the box or up atop in a single-high formation only serves to increase his value to coordinator DeMeco Ryans’ defense.

On top of that, Hufanga was all over the field during the exhibition phase before Week 1, showing high-quality instincts and reaction skills indicative of a three-year veteran.

Those traits should put Hufanga in line to start sooner than later.