San Francisco 49ers Rookies Forecast

By Charlie Campbell – @draftcampbell

Solid Starter

Marcus Martin, C, USC – Round 3
The 49ers landed a nice value with Martin in the third round. The 6-foot-3, 320-pound looks like a perfect fit as a road-grading center in their smash mouth running offense. Most teams prefer lighter, and smaller centers, but the 49ers offense thrived with a similar sized player in Jonathan Goodwin. With Goodwin being let go, Martin looks like a perfect long-term replacement.

In the short term Daniel Kilgore may start ahead of Martin. The USC product Martin played guard and center in college before entering the draft a year early. His development would have been aided by another season of college football. With San Francisco hoping to get back to the Super Bowl this season, Kilgore’s experience may lead to him being the starter in front of Colin Kaepernick.

However in the years to come Martin should become the starting center for the 49ers. He has the power to move defenders at the point of attack and is athletic enough to handle himself in pass protection. In time it wouldn’t be surprising if Martin is a rock solid starter for the San Francisco.

Most Likely To Bust

Chris Borland, LB, Wisconsin – Round 3
Once NaVorro Bowman is back from his knee injury it won’t be easy for Borland to see the field as he will be stuck behind Bowman and Patrick Willis. With Willis signed through 2016 and Bowman signed through 2018, Borland will probably be relegated to situational duties in obvious running situations to spare some wear-and-tear from the 49ers star linebackers.

Borland was a favorite of a lot of the draft media, but I think Borland has some serious bust potential. I can explain it in two adjectives: short and slow. If the NFL were the running focused game of the 1980s and earlier eras Borland would be tremendous. He’d be worthy of a first-round pick because he’s a great run defender. But the NFL is a passing driven league now. Linebackers need to be able to match up against dangerous receiving tight ends and backs, especially San Francisco because they’re often going against the pass while playing from the lead. Borland (5-11, 248) is too slow to run with the fast tight ends and he is very short, so even if he runs with a tight end they can just make catches over him.

I think his limitations in the passing game could turn him into a situational player in the NFL and thus he may not validate his draft slot. As a pass defender, Borland is basically the opposite of Luke Kuechly in terms of length and speed. Thus I think Borland has some legit bust potential.

Potential Boom Pick

Carlos Hyde, RB, Ohio State – Round 2
A lot of people questioned this pick because San Francisco has used a lot of picks on running backs over the past few seasons. However, Hyde is a perfect fit as the long-term replacement for Frank Gore. Both are physical runners that can be bell cow backs.

The powerful Hyde (5-11, 230) is a one-cut downhill runner who picks up a lot of yards after contact. Hyde runs over defenders and is a physical force. In short-yardage and goal line, Hyde should be an instant asset in the NFL with his ability to power ahead for tough yards. Hyde isn’t just a power back as he has a lot of quickness to hit the hole before it closes and also shows a second gear to run away from defenders when he gets in the open field. Hyde showed some receiving ability in college and could be a nice weapon on screens. Like all college backs, Hyde will have to develop his pass blocking skills but he should be able to pick that up. knows teams that gave Hyde first-round grades. Those teams didn’t take a running back early and many teams felt that either Hyde or LSU’s Jeremy Hill were the best back in the draft.

San Francisco has Gore and Kendall Hunter in the final years of their contracts. Marcus Lattimore may or may not reach his pre-injury form but he could form a nice power tandem with Hyde while LaMichael James serves as the speed back.

Another pick that I think will be a boom selection for San Francisco is seventh-round fullback Trey Millard. If healthy I think Millard could become one of the best fullbacks in the NFL and will be a real weapon on offense and special teams.

Future Depth Player

Bruce Ellington, WR, South Carolina – Round 4
The 49ers needed to add some talent to their receiving corps and did so during the draft with the trade for Stevie Johnson and selecting Ellington in the fourth round. San Francisco has some veterans that will lead their receivers, but Ellington should be a nice role player as a slot receiver.

The speedster Ellington (5-9, 197) is a tough receiver that can challenge defenses vertically. In the not to distant future Michael Crabtree and Anquan Boldin may not be in the 49ers plans so it makes sense for San Francisco to develop Ellington. In the mean time he could contribute and be a solid depth player for the 49ers.

Walt’s 2014 NFL Draft Grades:

30. Jimmie Ward, S, Northern Illinois: C+ Grade
Jimmie Ward will apparently be used as a nickel corner, so this pick makes a bit more sense, given that the safety position is filled. Still though, that doesn’t change the fact that Ward is a bit of a reach; everyone we’ve spoken to had him in the second round. I’m also wondering why the 49ers didn’t move up. What are they going to do with all of their picks?

57. Carlos Hyde, RB, Ohio State: C Grade
Note to NFL teams: Stop taking running backs so early! They are a dime a dozen, and there is a much better class of backs coming in 2015 (go here for my 2015 NFL Mock Draft). I don’t like this pick very much. The 49ers have Frank Gore now and Marcus Lattimore for the future, so where does Carlos Hyde fit in? Hyde is at least the consensus No. 1 back in this class, but this just seems like another wasted second-day choice used on a runner for San Francisco.

70. Marcus Martin, C, USC: A Grade
Finally, a San Francisco pick that I really like. Marcus Martin was discussed as a potential late first-round pick. I had him in the second, but the fact still remains that this provides good value. Center is a big need with Jonathan Goodwin gone, so Martin should be able to step in right away and start.

77. Chris Borland, ILB, Wisconsin: A Grade
It’s odd to see the 49ers select a defender with short arms, but maybe they just saw great value with him at this spot. Chris Borland is a very good football player, but lacks the athleticism. That’s why he was projected to go in the second round. Picking him there would have been fine, but San Francisco is getting a bit of a steal with him here.

100. Brandon Thomas, OT/G, Clemson: A Grade
The 49ers love to redshirt and stash players. They did so with Tank Carradine and Marcus Lattimore last year, and they’re doing the same thing with Brandon Thomas in this draft. Thomas would have been a late-first, early-second-round prospect had he not torn his ACL a few months ago. He’ll be ready to go in 2015, and he should serve as a solid starting lineman at some point over the next couple of seasons. With extra selections, why not?

106. Bruce Ellington, WR, South Carolina: A Grade
Bruce Ellington could have easily gone in the second round, and no one would have had an issue with it. The 49ers are stealing him in the fourth round. Ellington is still raw, but he doesn’t have to play anytime soon with Anquan Boldin, Michael Crabtree and Stevie Johnson all ahead of him. But Ellington can sit and learn for a year or two before becoming a big contributor.

129. Dontae Johnson, CB/S, N.C. State: B+ Grade
It’s no surprise that the 49ers are picking another defensive back, given that the area is their biggest weakness. Dontae Johnson is a big, athletic defensive back who has tons of potential to turn into a solid starter if coached well. This is a pretty decent pick, as Johnson could have gone a bit earlier.

150. Aaron Lynch, DE/OLB, South Florida: C Grade
There are major character concerns with Aaron Lynch that I can’t get into, and I know that one team wasn’t even going to consider signing him as an undrafted free agent. I don’t like this pick, but I wouldn’t say it’s terrible. Lynch is talented, but the 49ers could have probably obtained him later.

170. Keith Reaser, CB, Florida Atlantic: C- Grade
The 49ers have done a great job of picking value players thus far, but that does not apply to this pick. Keith Reaser had no buzz as a draftable prospect, so it’s worth wondering if San Francisco could have chosen him in the seventh round or picked him up as a UDFA.

180. Kenneth Acker, CB, SMU: C Grade
What is up with the 49ers making these fifth- and sixth-round cornerback reaches? I’m not surprised they’re drafting cornerbacks at this juncture, but these are players they could sign as UDFAs.

243. Kaleb Ramsey, DE/DT, Boston College: B Grade
Kaleb Ramsey will provide depth at five-technique for the 49ers if he makes the roster. He provides good range in Round 7, so this is a solid choice.

245. Trey Millard, FB, Oklahoma: A Grade
I like this pick a lot. The 49ers still use a fullback, and Trey Millard could be a starter in the future. He would have been a fourth-round pick if he didn’t tear his ACL. He’ll be stashed in 2014 and used the following year.

2014 NFL Draft Team Grade: B . Follow Walter @walterfootball for updates.

San Francisco 49ers Season Preview

Fantasy Football Rankings - May 23

2025 NFL Mock Draft - May 21

NFL Power Rankings - Feb. 22

NFL Picks - Feb. 12