San Francisco 49ers Rookies Forecast

By Charlie Campbell – @draftcampbell

Solid Starter

Jaquiski Tartt, S, Samford – Round 2
The 49ers had a lot of success on defense for a few years when they were starting two strong safeties with Dashon Goldson and Donte Whitner. Age and expensive contracts led to both leaving the franchise in free agency, but San Francisco finished off its safety duo for many years to come with the selection of Tartt to pair with Eric Reid. Both are physical safeties with great size and the ability to knock a receiver into next week.

Playing at Samford, Tartt didn’t get a lot of attention. However, scouts took notice of him as he was a physical force who would routinely make hits that could be heard from a long ways away. He had 98 tackles with nine passes broken up and one interception in 2013, but his numbers were down as a senior. He still turned in a quality 2014 season though. Tartt then played well at the Senior Bowl and solidified his status as a second-day selection in the 2015 NFL Draft. Tartt isn’t a coverage free safety to isolate in man-to-man, and that is why he wasn’t a first-round candidate.

The 49ers have 2014 first-rounder Jimmie Ward, who can serve as a free safety and coverage safety. That kind of player should help Tartt and Reid as neither one of them is a man-cover safety to go against NFL receivers. Ward should be able to rotate into the game to do those duties, and that will help Tartt to develop. With the rushing offenses in the NFC West, the 6-foot-1, 221-pound Tartt will be a needed tackler to defend against Marshawn Lynch, Andre Ellington and Todd Gurley. With the talent next to him and on the coaching staff, Tartt should become a solid starter for the 49ers.

Most Likely To Bust

Eli Harold, OLB, Virginia – Round 3
Every year, there are a few teams that I have to pick a player as most likely to bust but I hate all of my options. This is one of those situations because I like Harold as a player. He is a tough edge rusher who is fast off the edge and held his own against good competition. I don’t think that Harold is going to be a bust, but I have to pick one, and I can see a pathway for this selection not to work out.

My reasoning is how Harold is undersized for an edge defender in the NFL. The 6-foot-3, 247-pounder needs to add weight, and some league sources said they felt that Harold was stiff for an undersized player. They had him graded as a third-rounder. At his size with that athleticism, Harold is a bit of a tweener between a 3-4 outside linebacker and a 4-3 defensive end. With that being the case, he may not translate to the NFL.

Another issue that could hurt Harold is a lack of playing time and opportunity. Aldon Smith is an excellent young pass-rusher, and as long as he can stay out of trouble, he should be the featured outside linebacker for the 49ers. Ahmad Brooks has also played well for San Francisco, and the organization seems to like second-year pro Aaron Lynch. With those players ahead of him, Harold may never get a real shot to breakout.

Potential Boom Pick

Arik Armstead, DE, Oregon – Round 1
I think the 49ers had an excellent draft in Rounds 3-7. I think the team landed some potential steal picks in tight end Blake Bell, running back Mike Davis, wide receiver DeAndre Smelter and tight end Rory Anderson. However, predicting a third-day pick as a boom selection is a huge long-shot. Plus, not all Day-3 picks get a fair shot to make an impact with teams, so among the 49ers’ first three selections, I think Armstead has the best shot at being a boom pick.

There is no doubt that the 6-foot-7, 292-pound Armstead is a physical specimen with a rare combination of size, speed, athleticism and strength. He never produced huge totals at Oregon, but that was the case for other defensive prospects in recent years. Armstead had only 5.5 tackles for a loss and 2.5 sacks last season, but that was in large part because of the Ducks’ scheme. Armstead has the ability to use speed to beat offensive tackles off the edge and also can beat them with strength to shed blocks. He has a ton of athletic upside and just needs the right environment to blossom into a difference-maker in the NFL.

The 49ers are a great landing spot for Armstead. Justin Smith was a great five-technique defensive end for San Francisco, and he really became a better player with the 49ers compared to his years with the Bengals. San Francisco could develop Armstead to be that kind of player, and Armstead has a similar skill set to Smith. In the short-term, the 49ers can take their time with Armstead as they have veterans like Darnell Dockett, Glenn Dorsey, Ian Williams and Tank Carradine. Thus, Armstead can be developed at his own pace, and he doesn’t have to be forced onto the field. With Jim Tomsula remaining on staff with those veterans, San Francisco should have the people in place to bring Armstead along.

Future Depth Player

Mike Davis, RB, South Carolina – Round 4
As stated above, I really like the prospects the 49ers took on Day 3 and this was a tough choice. Bell, Smelter and Anderson could all have more upside, but I think Davis is the safest bet to turn into a backup contributor. The 49ers lost Frank Gore in the offseason, but Carlos Hyde is the feature back of the future. However, Davis is an excellent No. 2 because he can be a tough runner who can spell Hyde, plus is very good as a receiver. Davis could be an ideal screen back to replace Gore. Davis may never be the every-down starter or feature back with the 49ers, but I think he could be a good No. 2 and depth performer.

Walt’s 2015 NFL Draft Grades:

17. Arik Armstead, DE/DT, Oregon: C Grade
Blegh. The 49ers’ regression continues. I had Arik Armstead going to the 49ers in my 2015 NFL Mock Draft, but only because I heard that they liked him. I had Armstead slotted in the top half of the second round on numerous updates for a reason. He’s a highly athletic player, but he’s extremely raw, and definitely shouldn’t be a first-round pick based on production. He has tremendous upside and could develop into a strong starter, so I won’t give the 49ers a “D” or a “Millen,” but this does not project as a quality choice.

Follow @walterfootball for updates.

46. Jaquiski Tartt, S, Samford: D Grade
I made a disgusting-looking face when I saw this pick. I wish you could’ve seen it. That’s pretty much the same face I’ve made for every single decision the 49ers have made in the past year. Their franchise is a disaster, and so is this pick. Jaquiski Tartt is a third-round prospect at best and could’ve easily been chosen in the fourth frame. This pick doesn’t make much sense. San Francisco could’ve taken a safety of equal talent later.

79. Eli Harold, DE/OLB, Virginia: A+ Grade
I’ve bashed the 49ers’ draft thus far, but I have to say that I love this pick. I had Eli Harold going to the Patriots at the end of the first round, though I believed the right spot for him was the second frame. Harold won’t contribute right away, but with Aldon Smith bound to be off the team soon, Harold could emerge as a starter in the near future.

117. Blake Bell, TE, Oklahoma: C+ Grade
The 49ers were expected to find another tight end in the 2015 NFL Draft with Vernon Davis on his way out soon. I think San Francisco probably should’ve gone after a real tight end – and not a former quarterback – but Bell will be able to be functional on 2-point conversion attempts.

126. Mike Davis, RB, South Carolina: C Grade
If Mike Davis was lazy and put on weight in college, what’s going to happen now that he’s cashing NFL paychecks? Davis has second-round talent, so if he gets his act together, he could be a solid player for the 49ers. However, there’s a reason he dropped to the fourth frame.

132. DeAndre Smelter, WR, Georgia Tech: C- Grade
The 49ers spent like five seconds making this selection. Perhaps they should’ve taken their time because this is not a good pick. DeAndre Smelter was not on some boards because of his torn ACL. He consequently couldn’t work out. Considering that he’s still learning how to play football – he used to be a baseball player – it may be difficult for Smelter to develop if he’s not ready for OTAs.

165. Bradley Pinion, P, Clemson: C Grade
Rich Eisen says that punters are people. They should not, however, be fifth-round prospects. The 49ers have way too many holes to take a position that they could easily address in the UDFA market. Bradley Pinion is very good at what he does, but San Francisco should have gone in a different direction.

190. Ian Silberman, G, Boston College: D Grade
Another poor pick from the 49ers, but the general manager doesn’t care because he has a coach telling him how great he is. Ian Silberman was not a draftable prospect. He was not in my top 400.

244. Trenton Brown, OT, Florida: B Grade
Trenton Brown is 6-foot-9 and weighed in at 376 pounds at the Senior Bowl. He has great potential, but has never developed because of work-ethic issues. He probably won’t amount to anything, but he’s worth a gamble at this point.

254. Rory Anderson, TE, South Carolina: C+ Grade
Rory Anderson had some nice moments at South Carolina, but was unproductive for the most part. He had dual triceps tears this past season. It’ll be a surprise if he makes the 49ers’ roster.

2015 NFL Draft Team Grade: D . Follow Walter @walterfootball for updates.

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