Predicting 49ers' starting lineup after adding 8 players in NFL Draft

The Niners retained most of their starters from last season but infused more talent via the 2024 NFL Draft.

How will the offensive and defensive starting lineups look, though?

San Francisco 49ers quarterback Brock Purdy (13) and running back Christian McCaffrey (23)
San Francisco 49ers quarterback Brock Purdy (13) and running back Christian McCaffrey (23) / Robin Alam/ISI Photos/GettyImages

The 49ers wrapped up the 2024 NFL Draft by adding eight rookies, but will any of them end up starting right away this season?

The San Francisco 49ers are fortunate in that they're one of only a few teams that didn't need a lot of immediate-impact players from their class of 2024 NFL Draft picks.

In fact, the Niners retained 18 of their 22 starters from offense and defense last year, and their free-agent pickups and trades from earlier this offseason helped shore up those areas of need to help keep San Francisco a Super Bowl contender once again.

For reference, though, here are the eight picks the 49ers made in the draft:

  • Round 1, No. 31 overall -- WR Ricky Pearsall, Florida
  • Round 2, No. 64 overall (from Chiefs) -- CB Renardo Green, Florida State
  • Round 3, No. 86 overall (from Eagles) -- OL Dominick Puni, Kansas
  • Round 4, No. 124 overall (from Cowboys) -- DB Malik Mustapha, Wake Forest
  • Round 4, No. 129 overall (from Jets) -- RB Isaac Guerendo, Louisville
  • Round 4, No. 135 overall -- WR Jacob Cowing, Arizona
  • Round 6, No. 215 overall (compensatory) -- OL Jarrett Kingston, USC
  • Round 7, No. 251 overall -- LB Tatum Bethune, FSU

Will any of them end up starting right away, though?

To determine that, let's look at both sides of the ball and predict the starting lineups for each.

Note: Just because a player is a starter doesn't automatically mean he'll get the most snaps at that position.

49ers starting offense

Quarterback: Brock Purdy
Running backs: Kyle Juszczyk, Christian McCaffrey
Wide receiver: Brandon Aiyuk, Deebo Samuel
Tight end: George Kittle
Offensive line: Trent Williams, Aaron Banks, Jake Brendel, Jon Feliciano, Colton McKivitz

Despite the fact the Niners used a first-round pick on Pearsall, all signs are pointing toward both Samuel and Aiyuk playing together on the roster for one more season. Aiyuk is due a hefty contract extension, while Samuel could be a trade commodity in a year's time.

Should that happen, Pearsall steps into the fray in 2025 as a likely starting-caliber replacement.

San Francisco didn't grab a pure offensive tackle in the draft, opting to go with Puni on day two and Kingston on day three. While Puni may compete for the starting right guard spot, it seems as if Feliciano would get the edge because of head coach Kyle Shanahan's preference for experienced offensive linemen over promising rookies.

Pearsall, Puni and the rest of the first-year offensive players may have to wait a year before fully making their respective impacts felt.

49ers starting defense

Defensive line: Nick Bosa, Javon Hargrave, Maliek Collins, Leonard Floyd
Linebacker: Fred Warner, De'Vondre Campbell, Dee Winters
Cornerback: Charvarius Ward, Renardo Green
Safety: Ji'Ayir Brown, Talanoa Hufanga

Yes, finally, a rookie gets a starting job.

Green was targeted in Round 2 to be a long-term boundary cornerback option, especially with Ward hitting free agency in 2025. And, for what it's worth, nickel corner Deommodore Lenoir technically isn't a base-down starter but will see plenty of field time nevertheless.

If Green takes time to develop, though, look for the 49ers to deploy either Isaac Yiadom or Rock Ya-Sin as more experienced veteran options.

Linebacker and safety present the other two question marks, especially with Dre Greenlaw rehabilitating from a torn Achilles suffered in the Super Bowl last February. He's likely not available for the start of the regular season, which bumps Campbell into a starting job and leads to a promotion for second-year pro Dee Winters to the strong-side (SAM) spot on base downs.

As for safety, Hufanga, too, is recovering from a serious injury suffered last year. But his ACL tear occurred much earlier in the season, suggesting he could be back in time for Week 1.

A free agent to be in 2025, though, his leash might be short if the Niners feel as if Mustapha is the real deal.

Overall, San Francisco treated its 2024 NFL Draft class with 2025 in mind, knowing all too well that plenty of established veterans could be on their way out the door after the upcoming season.

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