When the San Francisco 49ers host the Carolina Panthers on Sunday, all eyes will be on the bevy of young talent taking the field.
According to general manager John Lynch, the 49ers came away with two of the top three players on their draft board in defensive lineman Solomon Thomas and linebacker Reuben Foster. Both players flashed during the preseason and hinted at what they're capable of when live bullets start flying this weekend.
The Carolina Panthers conversely boast two talented rookies of their own that the 49ers will be responsible for containing. With their first two picks in the 2017 NFL Draft, the Panthers selected running back Christian McCaffrey and wide receiver Curtis Samuel.
During their conference calls with local beat writers, Thomas had some high praise for McCaffrey and the running back spoke fondly of both 49ers defenders. Thomas on being able to tackle McCaffrey: “That would be great. Since, I never really had the chance to in practice, we wanted to protect him and make sure he’s healthy. If I get the chance I need to take advantage of it.”Thomas on playing against McCaffrey: “He's going to be tough to handle. It's going to be fun to go against him.”**
McCaffrey on playing against Thomas: “It’ll be good. It’ll be pretty familiar. We did it a lot the past three years. I’m excited, man. That’s one of my best friends in the whole world.”McCaffrey on playing against Foster: **“He’s a heck of a player, man. He’s fast. He’s physical. He’ll stick his nose in there. He’s good getting to the ball and he’s a high energy player, somebody that is definitely going to be tough to go against.” NFL.com’s draft analyst Daniel Jeremiah recently ranked his top 25 rookies heading into Week 1. Foster ranked first and McCaffrey ranked fourth.
According to Jeremiah, “Foster has All-Pro ability. He is quick to diagnose and is an explosive striker on contact. He is someone opposing teams will need to game plan against.”
Jeremiah also had high praise for McCaffrey, calling him "a slippery runner and a nightmare matchup in the passing game. He is going to be fun to watch in the regular season.”
The NFL1000 scouts on Bleacher report also compiled their own list of the top 50 rookies and top ten by each position.
McCaffrey, Foster and Thomas all ranked in the top 15, and Samuel is the eighth-ranked wide receiver heading into Week 1.
Bleacher report’s scouts also ranked 49ers rookies running back Matt Breida and tight end George Kittle in the top ten for their respective positions.
Expect this group of young talent to make some noise on Sunday.