In a difficult and unusual offseason, the San Francisco 49ers‘ rookies have to make up for lost time at this year’s training camp. But who has the most to gain?
The competition across positional groups will mean more than most years, and both the 49ers’ youngest players and veterans will have to fight for roster spots. However, rookies and unproven players have their backs against the wall.
The offseason and preseason are meant to be chances to compare, and every practice, preseason game and workout lost is an opportunity lost for San Francisco players with something to prove.
However, the 49ers and its players know that they can’t focus on chances lost. Instead, training camp is now the battle ground for the eventual goal of a 53-man roster spot.
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S Jared Mayden
Alabama may not have reached the College Football Playoff this past season, but safety Jared Mayden can comfortably say he was a focal point for the Crimson Tide with 59 total tackles, four interceptions and a sack to boot.
Mayden had to bide his time in Tuscaloosa, Alabama before his senior season, sitting behind eventual 2019 All-Pro safety Minkah Fitzpatrick and then 2019 NFL Draft second-round pick Xavier McKinney.
When Mayden was able to take on the job himself, he proved to be capable at the top level of college football. However, his lack of starting experience in college combined with a disrupted offseason means the undrafted free agent signing has to seriously impress at training camp.
With the safety positions considered one of the less rock-solid groups on the 49ers, Mayden could make a case for himself as an understudy that could learn from SS Jaquiski Tartt.
However, he’ll have to show that he’s got the physical and mental capabilities, as well as prove that he can be a worthy asset on special teams.
RB Salvon Ahmed
The same that’s being said about Salvon Ahmed also goes for fellow RB JaMychal Hasty, who are coming from Washington and Baylor respectively.
With breakout RB Raheem Mostert currently negotiating a contract or a departure, the chance for either Ahmed or Hasty to make it to the regular season grows, but they are partially on the hook.
While Hasty has shown serious potential and freak athleticism over four years of being an important part of the Baylor attack, Ahmed has to show that his exponential growth over the past year can continue.
Ahmed doubled his collegiate rushing yard total of 996 yards in the 2019 season, running for 1,020 yards and 11 touchdowns as the Huskies’ feature back.
While he boasts a better singular season, Hasty’s still got the better career numbers and has also proven to be a valuable asset as a backfield receiver. However, when Ahmed was given an outright opportunity, he took it. He’ll have to do it again in a couple weeks.
WR Jauan Jennings
This may come as a surprise to some, as Jennings has received a significant amount of hype since being selected in the seventh round of the 2020 NFL Draft. However, with hype comes expectation and the former Tennessee Volunteer will have to live up to that.
For Jennings, it’s mostly just a case of showing up to training camp at the best of his abilities, because there may not be a more competitive and saturated positional group on the 49ers.
While injuries to Deebo Samuel and Richie James means that there is technically less competition in camp, there are still 10 receivers competing. Jennings’ huge frame gives him an innate advantage, but there are veterans like Dante Pettis, Travis Benjamin and Chris Thompson with a lot to prove.
With 2,153 receiving yards and 18 touchdowns(969 yards and 8 TDs coming in 2019,) Jennings has shown he can do it in the SEC, but he has a short amount of time he will be immediately more useful and valuable than said veterans.
Evan Reier is a sportswriter covering the San Francisco 49ers for Heavy.com and local sports for the Montana Standard in Butte, Mont. Reach out to him on Twitter at @evanreier and join our 49ers community at Heavy on 49ers on Facebook.