The 49ers kick off OTA practices this week, but the overwhelming majority of the team’s rookie class will be competing for depth and backup roles only.
We caught some brief glimpses of the San Francisco 49ers’ first-year pros, both the 2022 NFL Draft class and a swarm of undrafted free agents and tryouts, during the Niners’ opening rookie minicamp a week ago.
There’s not too much to gauge from those practice sessions, as those rookies are going up against other first-year competition, and there aren’t enough players to engage in full-team drills.
That’ll all change this week, however, as San Francisco kicks off the first day of nine whole days of organized team activities on Monday, May 23.
It’s always fun to see how the rookies are doing early on, yes, even if these practices are padless and tackling isn’t allowed.
Just don’t expect to hear too much about them this go-around.
49ers 2022 rookie class likely won’t make too many headlines in OTAs
In the case of a rebuilding team, or at least one with multiple first-round picks in the ranks, first-year players can make an immediate impression, frequently lining up with first- or at least second-team units during OTAs.
The 49ers don’t fall into either category, though. With a relatively stacked roster prior to the NFL Draft, plus not being able to pick a player until grabbing USC EDGE Drake Jackson way towards the end of Round 2 at No. 61 overall, there are few high-profile rookies to watch here.
Considering the Niners’ depth along their defensive line, Jackson will likely begin his workouts with the third-string unit, potentially working his way into the immediate backups from time to time, but that’ll be it.
Likewise, San Francisco’s two third-round selections, running back Tyrion Davis-Price and wide receiver Danny Gray, already find themselves pretty low on their respective depth charts. As the lower one gets on the 49ers’ 2022 NFL Draft class, the less likely the chance of any rookie working his way up the depth chart early on during OTAs.
Nearly all of them will be backside-of-the-paper storylines. Not front-page OTA news.
49ers rookie QB Brock Purdy will command OTA attention, though
If there’s going to be an exception, it’ll likely be quarterback Brock Purdy, the Niners’ final (and very last pick) of the 2022 NFL Draft out of Iowa State.
Purdy had a rough go at it during rookie minicamp, although it’s hard to read too much into those sessions.
Anyway, rookie quarterbacks always garner interest regardless of where they’re drafted, and the attention given to Purdy won’t be an exception. The media will talk about him, good or bad, a lot more than, let’s say, sixth-round rookie cornerback Tariq Castro-Fields.
On top of that, Purdy might get a slight bump in practice time, too, particularly with veteran quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo (still on the roster) unavailable to throw in the wake of his offseason shoulder surgery.
While Purdy will have to be third in line behind quarterbacks Trey Lance and Nate Sudfeld, he at least won’t be looking at being the forgotten “fourth QB” brought in solely to round out the practice depth (think former San Francisco quarterback Josh Rosen a year ago).
Perhaps this benefits Purdy. Perhaps not. Either way, it’s surely possible he winds up commanding most of the attention out of all the rookies attending OTAs this spring.