No. 2: 49ers must field their rookies as much as possible
Yes, there’s something to be said about not “handing a first-year player a job” simply because he’s a high-profile NFL Draft pick. The best teams make those players earn it.
This approach would have made sense for Kyle Shanahan during the offseason, particularly for high-end draft picks who had an open road to take over starting duties right away, such as Round 2 offensive guard Aaron Banks, and the two third-round draftees, running back Trey Sermon and cornerback Ambry Thomas.
Banks, however, struggled in camp and missed all but a few snaps of the preseason, now a regular inactive on game day aside from one contest where he didn’t see the field anyway. But, considering the Niners’ weakest link on their offensive line is right guard Daniel Brunskill, the player Banks was supposed to replace, there’s no reason not to field Banks to at least see what he can offer.
Or what he can’t. Even by that perspective, San Francisco needs to know.
Same with Thomas, who struggled during the preseason and in limited action earlier this year. For him and fellow cornerback Deommodore Lenoir, the fifth-round pick, an increase in playing time affords the opportunity to move on from Josh Norman and Dre Kirkpatrick even if the initial results wind up producing a lot of growing pains.
Then there’s Sermon, who has found himself buried on the depth chart and even a healthy scratch in Week 9. While fellow rookie Elijah Mitchell has rightfully earned the top spot at the position, Sermon figures to be a long-term element in the offense.