“When you have 15, 16 rookies playing and contributing in a big way, that’s encouraging. You talk about the guys at the end. Colbert, the free agents like Breida. I could go on and on, but these guys came and really picked our team up in a big way and were accepted by their teammates because of the way they go about their work.”
Of San Francisco’s nine draft picks who saw playing time in 2017, seven went on to start for the 49ers, many of which are in line to be starters in 2018.
Here’s a review of the 49ers 2017 rookie class.
Solomon Thomas - Round 1: Pick 3 overall
The former Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year was the new regime's first draft pick after a trade with the Chicago Bears at third-overall. In 14 games and 12 starts, Thomas recorded 41 tackles, three sacks, and a fumble recovery. Thomas missed the 49ers offseason program due to NFL rules. But a full offseason in 2018 should help him build off his late season surge. Reuben Foster - Round 1: Pick 31 overall
Jumping back into the first round of the draft, Foster landed in the hands of San Francisco with the 31st overall pick. After missing six games with a high ankle sprain, Foster returned and was a spark for the defense. He went on to win the NFL’s Defensive Rookie of the Month Award for the Month of November. He finished the season as the 49ers second-leading tackler behind Dontae Johnson (76) with 72 total tackles and ranked as the fourth-best linebacker in the league per Pro Football Focus. Even with a limited sample size, Foster was named to the Pro Football Writers of America All-Rookie team.Ahkello Witherspoon - Round 3: No. 66 overall
Witherspoon worked his way into a starting role in 2017, appearing in 12 games with nine starts. He finished the season with 32 tackles, seven passes defended, two interceptions and a forced fumble and was the fifth-highest ranked qualifying third-round pick in the 2017 draft class according to PFF.C.J. Beathard - Round 3: No. 104 overall
Beathard began the season as a backup to Brian Hoyer before taking over the starting role in Week 7 against the Dallas Cowboys. Beathard went on to start five games and led San Francisco to its first win of the season over the New York Giants. The rookie QB completed 55 percent of his passes for 1430 yards and four touchdowns.
Joe Williams - Round 4: No. 121 overall
Prior to the start of the 2017 season, Williams was praised for his breakaway speed that caused the 49ers to trade up in the draft to get him. He was placed on Injured Reserve with an ankle injury before the start of the season ending his rookie campaign. Williams was the 49ers only draft pick to not see playing time in 2017.George Kittle - Round 5: No. 146 overall
Kittle became an early favorite for 49ers quarterbacks with the second-most receiving yards (515) behind Marquise Goodwin on 43 catches and three touchdowns. As the ninth tight end taken in the 2017 draft, Kittle’s numbers ranked second among first year tight ends behind New York Giants rookie Evan Engram.
Trent Taylor - Round 5: No. 177 overall
Taylor was clutch in his first season, coming up big in key moments. His most memorable performance came during his “flu game” where he posted a career-high six receptions for 92 yards in the 49ers road win over the Chicago Bears. Taylor finished the year tied for fourth in receptions (43) and the sixth-most receiving yards out of the entire 2017 rookie class (430).D.J. Jones - Round 6: No. 198 overall
Jones appeared in nine games in 2017 while registering 11 total tackles and a pass defended. He was used as a backup nose tackle behind Earl Mitchell and Sheldon Day.Pita Taumoepenu - Round 6: No. 202 overall
Tauomoepenu saw limited playing time in 2017, appearing in two games on special teams.Adrian Colbert - Round 7: No. 229 overall
It’s safe to call Colbert the 49ers steal of the draft. The once special teams gunner earned a starting role at safety after both Jaquiski Tartt and Jimmie Ward went down in back-to-back weeks. Colbert appeared in 14 games before finishing the season with six starts. The rookie safety recorded 37 tackles, five passes defended, two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery. He went on to earn the Thomas Herrion Memorial Award, voted by coaches, given to a rookie who has taken advantage of his opportunities on the field.
Before suffering a season ending ankle injury in Week 14, Bolden was the 49ers primary kick returner. He returned 19 kickoffs for 396 yards and added four punt returns for 23 yards. Bolden is also responsible for forcing two fumbles on special teams and an onside kick recoverey against the Los Angeles Rams in Week 3.Matt Breida
By the start of the season, Brieda emerged as the primary backup to Pierre Garçon. Appearing in all 16 games, the undrafted free agent rushed for 465 yards and two touchdowns to go with 180 receiving yards and one receiving touchdown. He also replaced Bolden on special teams with five kick returns for 83 yards.Kendrick Bourne
Bourne stepped up big in the absence of veteran wide receiver Pierre Garçon. Appearing in 11 games, Bourne hauled in 16 passes for 257 yards. His best performance came in Week 14 against the Tennessee Titans after he caught four passes for 85 yards including a 54-yard catch and run on the 49ers game winning drive. Bourne averaged 16.1 yards per catch, ranked second on the team only behind Marquise Goodwin (17.2).Cole Hikutini
Hikutini was a highly touted offseason addition. The 49ers signed him to the practice squad prior to the start of the season before being activated in Week 6. Hikutini went on to appear in four games and caught two passes for 15 yards.Elijah Lee
The former Minnesota Vikings seventh-round pick was signed by the 49ers in the second week of the season and appeared in 14 games.Greg Mabin
The former Buffalo Bills cornerback was signed by the 49ers in Week 7 and appeared in six games.Erik Maguson
Magnuson was signed to the team’s practice squad after a strong showing in training camp and preseason. He appeared in four games and started two games at right tackle in place of the injured Trent Brown. Magnuson was placed on Injured Reserve in Week 12 with a sprained foot.Jeremy McNichols
The 49ers signed McNichols to the practice squad after the fifth-round pick was cut from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He was promoted to the active roster following a season-ending injury to running back Raheem Mostert. McNichols went on to appear in two games in 2017.Darrell Williams Jr.
Williams was signed to the 49ers practice squad in September before being activated in Week 9 against the Arizona Cardinals. Williams would go on to finish out the season and appear in all of the remaining seven games.