49ers depth chart: 5 players who could shockingly start in 2023

San Francisco 49ers quarterback Sam Darnold
San Francisco 49ers quarterback Sam Darnold / Michael Zagaris/GettyImages
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San Francisco 49ers, Ji'ayir Brown
San Francisco 49ers safety Ji'Ayir Brown (27) / Michael Zagaris/GettyImages

No. 3: 49ers DB Ji'Ayir Brown

Well, this "sort of" might be viewed as a surprise.

San Francisco didn't have picks in the firs two rounds of the 2023 NFL Draft, and its first selection was former Penn State defensive back Ji'Ayir Brown, a versatile player who could easily occupy one of any different positions within the secondary.

However, the 49ers grabbed Brown to become the long-term fixture at free safety.

Right now, veteran Tashaun Gipson is there after returning on a one-year deal. Brown, meanwhile, is likely an "uber reserve" kind of player who can support any of the spots within the Niners' defensive backfield as needed.

That said, Brown's youth and athleticism could close the gap over the elder Gipson's experience, and the fact Gipson is well beyond the 30-year-old threshold could point toward the rookie getting the starting job right out of the gate.

It'd still be a surprise, but it would also be a pleasant one.