Skip to main content

6 Breakout Candidates for the 49ers in 2016

The San Francisco 49ers roster is one that, by and large, is full of young talent still climbing towards their full potential in the NFL. That means there are a number of players who are capable of exceeding previous production in the coming year.

Here are six players, in alphabetical order, who could turn heads around the league in 2016.1. DL Arik ArmsteadReunited with his college head coach and defensive line coach (Jerry Azzinaro), Armstead is in the right situation to build on his promising rookie season. The team's 2015 first-round pick tallied 19 tackles and two sacks last year. Armstead played in all 16 games and saw his playing time increase as the season progressed. Pro Football Focus credited the 6-foot-7 defensive lineman with 38 pressures in his 384 snaps. Armstead lined up with the first-team defense throughout the offseason program and will be heavily relied on in 2016.**

  1. WR Bruce Ellington**

He was a catch machine during the offseason program, and his speed could prove to be a perfect fit in Chip Kelly's offense. Ellington will also be a candidate to return both kicks and punts on special teams. If the third-year wideout takes advantage of his opportunities in training camp and preseason, he'll be a busy man come gameday in 2016.3. RB Pierre Garçon
Hyde's dominant, 168-yard, two-touchdown performance in Week 1 last season against the Minnesota Vikings is tantalizing for 49ers Faithful. Only one team ran for more yards versus the Vikings in 2015. "El Guapo" possesses a rare combination of size, speed and agility for a 230-pound ball-carrier. Hyde was adamant this offseason that he wants to be a traditional three-down back. He also hopes to carve out a role for himself in the passing game. **

  1. LB Eli Harold**

Just ask the Denver Broncos and their newly minted Super Bowl ring how important a pass-rusher is in today's NFL. Von Miller posted 2.5 sacks and a forced fumble to carry Denver in Super Bowl 50 at Levi's® Stadium. At 6-foot-4 and now 270 pounds, Harold has all the size and ability to be a difference-maker in this league.

"All of my life I've been so raw. I want to learn to be a technician," Harold said this offseason after posting 13 tackles and one fumble recovery as a rookie.

With Aaron Lynch suspended for the first four games of 2016, Harold will have the opportunity to be the next man up.

  1. S Jaquiski TarttTartt flashed as a rookie. The team's second-round pick in 2015 posted 64 tackles, three passes defended, two sacks and one interception during his first NFL campaign. What doesn't show up on the stat sheet are the handful of crushing hits that Tartt delivered. The 6-foot-1, 221-pound safety provides the 49ers secondary with another physical presence, and defensive backs coach Jeff Hafley has praised his versatile skill set. Tartt already has eight starts under his belt which could pay dividends in Year 2.6. DB Jimmie Ward

Defensive coordinator Jim O'Neil said this offseason that he knew Ward was "one of our best 11 (players)." After spending all 16 games last season as the team's primary nickel cornerback, it appears that Ward will have the opportunity to shine on the perimeter this season. Ward lined up as a starting outside corner throughout the offseason program opposite of Tramaine Brock.

Don't be surprised to see O'Neil use Ward in a variety of ways given his position versatility and athletic ability. What you can expect is to see Ward on the field a lot this season.

This article has been reproduced in a new format and may be missing content or contain faulty links. Please use the Contact Us link in our site footer to report an issue.