Keep an eye on these 4 rookies during 49ers OTA workouts

San Francisco 49ers Practice
San Francisco 49ers Practice / Chris Unger/GettyImages

The 49ers begin OTAs this week, and fans will want to see how these four rookies are performing.

The San Francisco 49ers begin their next phase of offseason workouts this week, organized team activities.

OTAs are little more than glorified padless workouts, and there's no physical contact and tackling. That usually means the offense is at an advantage, especially because defensive backs can't bump receivers off their routes, and linebackers can't run at full speed once they get close to an offensive ball carrier.

Because of this, it can be hard to gauge just how well (or poorly) any player or unit is performing. Simply put, there are only so many takeaways from these OTA sessions that are worthwhile.

Still, that won't prevent us from trying.

One of the more entertaining aspects of OTAs, however, is watching first-year rookies finally get to match up with NFL-level competition no matter how less-intense it might be.

With that in mind, here are four rookies worth observing with OTAs kicking off.

No. 1: WR Ricky Pearsall

First-round draft picks always garner plenty of attention, meaning wide receiver Ricky Pearsall will have every chance to showcase his solid route-running skills and separation ability in a context where defensive backs can't press him at the line of scrimmage.

The ability to "get open" right away should mean Pearsall gets plenty of good looks, provided he can use those skills to his advantage early.

Pearsall should have the opportunity to make some catches during practices, and it'll be what he does with them in the open field that should wow observers.

No. 2: Wide receiver Jacob Cowing

While not as glamorous a pick as Pearsall, fellow rookie wideout Jacob Cowing is in a similar situation as his first-round teammate.

Known less for size and route-running ability, Cowing nevertheless has plenty of speed to burn, having ran a 4.38 40-yard time at the NFL Combine. The lack of pads during OTAs, paired with no physical contact at the line of scrimmage, mean Cowing should have no trouble showcasing that speed during practice.

If he can use that for separation, it'll be a solid first step toward carving out a niche role at the back end of the Niners' wide receiver depth chart.

No. 3: CB Renardo Green

Cornerbacks tend to be at a disadvantage during OTAs, seeing as they can't bump and run and will be at least a full step behind wide receivers in one-on-ones, 7-on-7s and 11-on-11 drills.

Still, it's a great opportunity to practice catch-up and recovery skills, which will be what rookie cornerback Renardo Green will want to do well over the next couple of weeks.

Green, who'll likely get his first looks as a backup nickel corner, will be given every opportunity to display his pass-coverage skills without having to worry about getting physical. This means footwork, positioning and technique, which are all elements that rookie defensive backs tend to struggle with early after emerging from the collegiate ranks.

If Green is taking positive steps with these skills, it'll be a good sign.

No. 4: RB Cody Schrader

There are multiple instances where San Francisco has landed at least two rookie running backs, either via the draft or through the undrafted ranks.

And, frequently, the undrafted rushers have outperformed the drafted ones. In 2017, it was UDFA Matt Breida over the Round 3 pickup, Joe Williams. In 2022 and 2023, Jordan Mason respectively outperformed rushers Trey Sermon and Tyrion Davis-Price, who were both third-round draftees in those consecutive years.

The 49ers used a fourth-round pick this year on Isaac Guerendo, who has both size and speed that should be enticing. Yet a hidden gem could be the undrafted Cody Schrader, who easily could have been drafted and offers his own blend of of speed and elusiveness.

While Schrader has a long way to go to carve out a roster spot, it wouldn't be a total shock to see him turn heads during OTAs.

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