The San Francisco 49ers 2014 draft class was looked at by many as one of the best in the NFL. The team selected prospects that have an opportunity to make an immediate impact, as well as some that will pay dividends down the road.
As the team embarks at another run towards the Super Bowl, it’s imperative that they do get some impact now, as the last two draft classes have only produced one starter (Eric Reid).
Here is a look at four rookies who have the ability and opportunity to help the 49ers this upcoming season.
The 49ers were in their nickel package over 60 percent of the time in 2013, so whoever the third cornerback is can basically be considered a starter. Going into camp, the slot position looks like it’s Ward’s to lose.
Listed as a safety coming out of college, the 49ers envision Ward to be a corner from day one. He has a natural ability to be around the ball which is something San Francisco liked about the way he plays. Ward will be a big part of the sceondary immediately.
There is no doubt about the fact that the 49ers feel Hyde has a strong chance to be the heir apparent to Frank Gore. At 230 pounds, his straight-ahead running style will mesh well with the team’s power running approach. Hyde played 21 games during his junior and senior seasons at Ohio State and gained 2,491 yards while scoring 31 rushing touchdowns.
While Gore will still be the unquestioned starter, Hyde will be worked in and given touches on a consistent basis. Given his size, Hyde also looks to be an ideal short yardage back. He’ll be given the opportunity to fill that role, which was previously held by Anthony Dixon who is no longer with the team.
Despite only playing one season as a center, Martin was considered by many to be the top prospect at his position entering the 2014 draft.
At 6-foot-3 and 320 pounds, Martin fits the mold of a big, physical lineman who can excel in the team’s power running game. He will compete with Daniel Kilgore to be the 49ers’ starting center this season, and may even be considered the favorite to end up with the first team.
If Kilgore does beat him out, Martin could be used as a backup at both the center and guard positions. Martin played guard during his freshman and sophomore seasons at USC.
While Ellington will have trouble climbing the wide receiver depth chart as a rookie, he can still find his way onto the field.
With the future of LaMichael James looking more and more in doubt, Ellington has a shot to be the 49ers’ primary return man. Ellington returned 43 kicks in college at 22.7 yards per return. He has very limited experience in fielding punts but did say that he would be comfortable doing that.
Photo: Getty Images
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