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Five Things to Watch at 49ers Rookie Minicamp

Posted May 21, 2014

The San Francisco 49ers rookie minicamp, an important step in the development of NFL newcomers, begins Friday. Here's five notes to consider before the camp begins.

The San Francisco 49ers rookie minicamp, an important step in the development of NFL newcomers, begins Friday.

The three-day session will be a key portion of the offseason program. Veterans won’t be around to take up all of the on-field reps, allowing the rookies to showcase what they’ve learned since being added to San Francisco’s roster.

Let’s take a look at five key storylines for the rookie camp.

1. When Draft Picks Collide

Perhaps my most vivid memory of last year’s minicamp involved the team’s top draft picks, Eric Reid and Vance McDonald, competing head to head during team periods. Reid, a 16-game starter and eventual Pro Bowl safety, often covered McDonald, the second-round tight end. McDonald memorably beat Reid for a deep reception on a corner route. This brings me to 2014. Which draft-pick encounter will be most noteworthy? Will it be fourth-round wide receiver Bruce Ellington facing fourth- and sixth-round draft picks Dontae Johnson and Kenneth Acker? Personally, I’m eagerly awaiting Ellington, the former South Carolina point guard, lining up opposite of Johnson, a Jim Harbaugh-spurning college recruit, who has the size and speed to excel in the NFL.

2. The Buckeye Back

Carlos Hyde has received plenty of fanfare since being selected 57th overall in the draft out of Ohio State. The 6-foot, 230-pound runner known as “El Guapo” on his social media accounts maintains that his style of play is not attractive; it’s better described as angry and aggressive. Though contact is not a factor in pad-less practices, Hyde will have a great venue to showcase his vision, speed and catching ability out of the backfield.

3. Competing 'Backers

An under-the-radar competition set to unfold will be at reserve inside linebacker. Enter third-round draft pick Chris Borland of Wisconsin and undrafted rookie free agent Shayne Skov of Stanford. The latter player spent one season playing for San Francisco’s defensive coordinator when Vic Fangio coached under Harbaugh on “The Farm.” Skov surely has a leg-up on the playbook, but Borland was a high draft selection and is known for being a tackling machine. No tackling will take place this weekend, but expect both linebackers to be on the field together as first-team ‘backers during 11-on-11 periods.
4. Jerry Rice Jr.

The son of 49ers Hall of Fame legend Jerry Rice announced on Twitter that he’ll be trying out at the upcoming camp. The same goes for former Stanford linebacker Chase Thomas, who also announced his invitation on social media. Rice Jr. has already received support from both Harbaugh brothers. Rice Jr. attended the 49ers local pro day before the draft and was invited to the Baltimore Ravens post-draft rookie camp. I hate to use this pun considering his father’s legendary work ethic, but Rice Jr. will have an uphill climb to make San Francisco’s wide receiver-laden roster. Then again, you never know what can happen.

5. Surprise Standouts

In addition to Rice Jr. and Thomas, a report from Minnesota’s St. Cloud Times indicated that Bemidji State basketball player, Zach Noreen, will attend the rookie camp. Noreen was invited by general manager Trent Baalke, an alum of Bemidji State. There could be other impact prospects who earn a spot on the 90-man roster based on what they showcase this weekend. The 49ers signed wide receiver Brandon Carswell after an impressive rookie camp audition in 2013, but shortly after the solid debut he was lost for the season due to a knee injury suffered during OTAs. In 2012, cornerback Ben Hannula was also signed to the roster after his rookie camp outing.

So who will be the most talked about player following the camp? Leave your thoughts in the comments section of this post.


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