We are less than 24 hours away from players reporting to the SAP Performance Facility for the start of training camp. The 2017 San Francisco 49ers have several intriguing storylines that will play out over the next month.
There are currently 90 players on the roster, a list that will be trimmed to 53 by the end of August. Here are 10 names to keep a close eye on in the coming weeks.
1. LB Reuben Foster
We're yet to see Foster unleashed at practice. He was limited to individual and non-contact drills during the offseason program. However, Kyle Shanahan has indicated that Foster will be full go on Friday for the team's first practice of camp. Everyone will be eager to see the linebacker fly around the field similar to his game film at Alabama.
Depending on how quickly he gets up to speed, he could compete for an immediate starting role in Robert Saleh's defense.
2. LB Elvis Dumervil
The veteran pass-rusher was signed just before the conclusion of the offseason program. That means Friday's practice will be his first in a 49ers uniform. Dumervil sold the 49ers on his clean bill of health and that he's still got gas left in the tank. He has the potential to be an x-factor for San Francisco in 2017. In a league where elite pass-rushers are hard to come by, Dumervil's ability to get to the quarterback could be a huge boost. That said, we have no idea what the 49ers have in Dumervil yet.
3. DL Solomon Thomas
You'll notice a theme here so far. NFL rules kept Thomas from partaking in OTAs and minicamps. So like the first two names on this list, Thomas' first practice of training camp will be our first real glimpse at the No. 3 overall pick. Many national pundits have suggested that Thomas could be an immediate impact player as an interior pass-rusher. Once he signs his rookie contract, we'll get to see how quickly Thomas can earn first-team reps.
4. DL Arik Armstead
Armstead had moments of dominance in last year's camp. He was a wrecking ball at the line of scrimmage and made several plays in the backfield. A shoulder injury ended his preseason early, lingered into the season and limited the defensive lineman to just eight games. He's got the size and all the tools to live up to his first-round draft status, but will need to show well in August to earn a significant role on Sundays.
5. WR Bruce Ellington
Similar to Armstead, Ellington was a training camp standout a year ago. He impressed throughout a joint practice against the Houston Texans and looked to be an emerging threat at slot receiver. Unfortunately, a hamstring injury in the preseason derailed Ellington's third NFL season. He's now a part of a crowded wide receiver room and will have lots of work to do in order to earn a roster spot in 2017. Ellington has always had the tools and could be a sleeper to impress in August.
6. LB Eli Harold
Harold has the feeling of a player who is prime for a breakout. He's said he feels comfortable in Saleh's 4-3 system and that he's fully recovered from a foot injury that ailed him in 2016. Despite playing hurt, Harold still managed three sacks, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery last season. You can never have too many pass-rushers, and the 49ers would welcome a big step forward from their 2015 third-round pick.
7. LB Aaron Lynch
Staying in the department of "you can never have too many pass-rushers", Lynch is another wildcard on San Francisco's defense. Lynch posted 12.5 sacks over his first two seasons but was hindered in 2016 due to injuries and a four-game suspension. He knows he has to prove himself to the 49ers new regime. Seeing production from Lynch in the preseason contests would be a welcome sight and add healthy competition at linebacker.
8. WR Trent Taylor
Taylor was as advertised in the offseason program. The shifty slot receiver had several catches at each practice and showed his ability to thrive in space. Taylor was able to both create separation and make contested catches. Jeremy Kerley was San Francisco's top receiver in 2016 and has a hold on the starting role in the slot, but should Taylor continue to impress, Shanahan may find ways to get the rookie on the field.
9. RB Joe Williams
Williams is a player Shanahan coveted in the draft. John Lynch shared that the rookie wasn't in ideal shape upon being drafted, but Williams impressed by the end of the offseason program. Shanahan has always been one to utilize multiple running backs so there is plenty of opportunity for Williams to grab a Week 1 role in the 49ers backfield.
10. LB NaVorro Bowman
This isn't so much for camp practices, but rather for the preseason games.
"In the preseason, we expect to play him," Lynch said. "We need to see what we have as a team, and NaVorro is a part of that."
In year's past, Bowman has been extremely limited in exhibition contests. It appears we will get an extended look at the linebacker in August even though he is coming off of a season-ending Achilles tear.