49ers 2021 Rookie NFL Power Rankings: The Upper Tier
There’s one, perhaps two names who are relatively surprising to be this high on the list of rookies so deep into the regular season.
Heck, one might even suggest all three are shockers, particularly when considering where they were drafted: all on day three of the 2021 NFL Draft.
But, hey, perhaps the Niners have made late-round picks a bit of an art form.
This is great news for San Francisco with regards to Jaylon Moore:
It’s still possible Moore misses a few games as he recovers from what was otherwise a scary injury against the Rams. But considering fans didn’t hear his name called when asked to go up against Los Angeles’ potent pass-rushing duo of Aaron Donald and Von Miller before getting hurt, it’s safe to say Moore did his job.
Once he returns, Moore will likely finish out the year as the 49ers’ starting right tackle.
The Niners absolutely have to love the energy fifth-round rookie safety Talanoa Hufanga brings to the table.
True, Hufanga has made some coverage mistakes when tasked with the starting strong safety job in the wake of Jaquiski Tartt going down with a knee injury, and Hufanga’s straight-line speed might not be enough to keep up with faster tight ends and running backs.
But when Hufanga is able to converge, he makes a difference.
While nose tackle D.J. Jones received a lot of credit for sniffing out the Rams’ fake field-goal attempt in Week 10, Hufanga was equally as impressive and broke off from his usual duties to pressure punter Johnny Hekker into tossing a premature pass, which led to Jones making the tackle short of the first-down marker.
Hustle play from the rookie, and there’ll be more to come in the upcoming weeks.
It certainly can’t be anyone else at No. 1 on this list.
Elijah Mitchell’s surprising outburst this season, which has produced a franchise-record-tying three games of 100-plus rushing yards, helps make the Round 3 so-far draft bust of Trey Sermon much more manageable.
Mitchell is easily looking like he’ll be the heir apparent to San Francisco’s presumed featured rusher entering the season, Raheem Mostert, who was lost for the year way back in Week 1 with a knee injury. And with Mitchell’s Mostert-like speed, it doesn’t look as if the 49ers are going to be losing much on that front anyway.
Sure, Mitchell has had his share of injuries, too, this season. A shoulder injury held him out of two games early in the year, and it’s unclear how much time he’ll miss with a broken finger.
Still, the fact Mitchell is averaging 4.8 yards per carry and has been the most impactful Niners rookie by a long shot makes him an easy choice for the top NFL draftee for San Francisco this deep into the season.
Great find in Round 6.