Instant Analysis: 49ers' top draft picks show promise in preseason opener win

Instant Analysis: 49ers' top draft picks show promise in preseason opener win


KANSAS CITY, Mo. – When John Lynch stacked his first draft board as 49ers general manager, he listed Solomon Thomas and Reuben Foster behind only Myles Garrett, the No. 1 overall pick of the Cleveland Browns.

Of course, the 49ers ended up with Thomas and Foster. And on Friday night, in the 49ers’ exhibition opener, both players showed glimpses of what the club hopes they can deliver in games that matter.

The Kyle Shanahan era had an unofficial beginning on Friday night, as the 49ers opened the exhibition season with a 27-17 victory over the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium.

All in all, it was a sloppy opening act, which is almost always the case when few players who will stick on either team’s 53-man roster saw extended playing time.

Thomas, the No. 3 pick in the draft, and Foster, chosen at No. 31 overall, were the exceptions. They figure into the 49ers immediate plans, and both played more than half the game.

Thomas did not start but made an immediate impact with a pressure on Kansas City Chiefs backup quarterback Tyler Bray, which led to an interception for cornerback Rashard Robinson. Thomas finished with two tackles, including ranging to the sideline to deliver a big hit on tight end Orson Charles for a 4-yard gain.

He played into the fourth quarter and ended on a couple of down notes. He was taken to the ground by a cut block from running back Charcandrick West, enabling Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes to roll to his right, unpressured, and find receiver Marcus Kemp for a 1-yard touchdown pass.

Later, the team’s medical staff looked at Thomas’s left shoulder and neck area.

Foster started alongside NaVorro Bowman and played the entire first half. He recorded two tackles and nearly collected an interception while breaking up a pass at the goal line in the first quarter.

Thomas is competing against Tank Carradine for the starting job at defensive end. Foster is the clear favorite to take over for weakside linebacker Malcolm Smith, who sustained a season-ending torn pectoral muscle last week.


Robinson, who appears to be unchallenged for one starting job, got off to a rough start. But he ended his evening on a positive note.

Robinson was in coverage against Tyreek Hill on Alex Smith’s 33-yard pass completion on the first play. He later missed a tackle on a third-down play that enabled the Chiefs to score a touchdown on their opening drive.

Robinson was also in coverage on an apparent 83-yard touchdown pass from Tyler Bray to Chris Conley. The play was called back due to an offensive pass interference call against Conley. Five plays later, Robinson recorded his interception.

“It was good to see them get a turnover,” Kyle Shanahan told KPIX at halftime on the local TV broadcast. “Especially, Rashard, coming out and getting beat on the go-route early, coming back and made the interception. I’m glad how the guys battled. Not everything was perfect, but it was a good start.”


Starting quarterback Brian Hoyer played two series before turning it over to those competing to be his backup. Hoyer completed just one of four pass attempts for 3 yards.

Matt Barkley played the remainder of the first half, completing 10 of 17 pass attempts for 168 yards, including a 63-yarder to Aldrick Robinson.

Rookie C.J. Beathard started the third quarter. He made two outstanding throws to Kendrick Bourne on back-to-back passes to pull the 49ers into a 17-17 tie early in the fourth quarter.

Beathard hung in to deliver a pass down the field to Bourne just before taking a big hit. Bourne turned the play into a 46-yard touchdown. Beathard and Bourne teamed up for a nicely executed fade route for the two-point conversion.

Beathard completed 7 of 11 passes for 101 yards with two touchdowns. He also tossed a 2-yard scoring pass to fullback Tyler McCloskey.


--Defensive end Aaron Lynch, working with the second team, recorded two sacks in the first half. He worked over Chiefs right tackle Jah Reid, a seven-year NFL veteran. Lynch also batted down a pass at the line of scrimmage.

--Defensive tackle DeForest Buckner started but was removed from the game early due to a bothersome ankle. Buckner remained standing on the sideline and he jogged off the field at halftime.

--Wide receiver Aaron Burbridge was ruled out at the beginning of the third quarter with a hamstring injury. Defensive lineman Ronald Blair went down with a groin injury in the fourth quarter and did not return.

--Rookie running back Joe Williams ripped off 17-yard carries on his first two touches. He finished with 60 yards on seven rushing attempts.

--Running back Kapri Bibbs, who is competing for a backup job, did himself no favors as Kevin Pierre-Louis pushed him out of the way to block a Bradley Pinion punt in the third quarter.

--The 49ers committed eight penalties for 65 yards in the first half, including an offensive pass-interference penalty on Burbridge that nullified Barkley’s 8-yard touchdown pass to Robinson.

--Guard Joshua Garnett (knee), cornerback Dontae Johnson (concussion) and linebacker Donavin Newsom (concussion) did not make the trip to Kansas City. Garnett is expected to be out four-to-six weeks after undergoing a procedure to clean up cartilage.

--Jimmie Ward remains on the physically-unable-to-perform list with a hamstring injury. Safety Jaquiski Tartt (ribs), running back Tim Hightower (knee), tight end George Kittle (hamstring) and linebacker Brock Coyle (ribs) did not play.

--Joe Staley (offense), NaVorro Bowman (defense) and Burbridge (special teams) were named captains. Burbridge, a wide receiver who caught seven passes for 88 yards last season as a rookie, has a strong chance to win a roster spot because of his skills on special teams.

Report: Former No. 3 overall pick works out for 49ers


Report: Former No. 3 overall pick works out for 49ers

The 49ers appear to have plenty of depth along their front seven, but the team brought in three defensive linemen for workouts on Tuesday, according to a source.

One of those players is reportedly Tyson Jackson, the No. 3 overall pick of the Kansas City Chiefs in 2009. The identities of the other two players were not immediately known.

Jackson has been without a team since the Falcons released him in March with two years and $8.5 million remaining on his contract. His workout with the 49ers was reported by the NFL Network. He also worked out recently with the Los Angeles Rams.

Jackson, 31, spent his first five season in Kansas City before playing three years with the Falcons. He appeared in all 16 games last season, starting seven times, and recorded 13 tackles and no sacks.

The 49ers have an abundance of defensive linemen, or players capable of rushing the passer from a position along the defensive line, such as DeForest Buckner, Arik Armstead, Solomon Thomas, Earl Mitchell, Elvis Dumervil, Aaron Lynch, Chris Jones, Tank Carradine, Quinton Dial, Ahmad Brooks, Eli Harold, Ronald Blair and D.J. Jones.

Veterans most vulnerable to losing roster spots with 49ers


Veterans most vulnerable to losing roster spots with 49ers

At the midway point of the 49ers’ exhibition season, there continues to be a lot of competition and more than a handful of veterans who have yet to lock down roster spots.

“I can tell you, it’s going to be real tough to cut it down to 53,” 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said last week. “We’re going to need all this game and practices to evaluate that.”

Here are the 49ers’ returning veteran players whose roster spots appear to be the most vulnerable with two weeks of practices and two exhibition games remaining to prove themselves:

OLB Ahmad Brooks
Brooks’ $4.45 million base salary is not much of a concern, considering the team is still $65.2 million under the salary cap. The number that factors into this decision the most is 33. That’s Brooks’ age.

If he is not clearly better than 23-year-old Eli Harold at the SAM linebacker position, the 49ers might want to keep the younger player to develop. Brooks is not talked about for his locker-room presence, so this decision will be made solely for what he does on the field and what he is expected to give the team in the future.

“You want to know who’s got the most upside and things like that,” Shanahan said. “Who’s going to be better throughout the year, if given the opportunity. But you also want to know who when it’s all said and done who’s going to affect your win-loss record the most. Those are the things that I look at personally. You don’t always want to think who’s the best guy for Week 1. Who’s the best guy for the 2017 49ers?”

OG Zane Beadles
Beadles is currently working with the first-team offense, but his spot on the roster remains vulnerable. The 49ers’ decision-makers do not seem impressed with their offensive guards. The 49ers could look to pick up a guard from another team before the start of the season.

The jury is still out on Joshua Garnett, who had a good start to camp. But his play dropped off in Week 2 – perhaps because of the knee injury that required a procedure to clean up cartilage. Garnett may not be available for the start of the regular season.

Also, the 49ers may want to hold onto undrafted rookie lineman Erik Magnuson, who has a bigger upside than Beadles with youth, size and ability to play guard and center.

NT Quinton Dial
Earl Mitchell appears locked-in as the 49ers’ starting nose tackle. The 49ers also seem to have high hopes for rookie D.J. Jones. It’s unclear where that leaves Dial, who does not appear to be a great fit for the 49ers’ new 4-3 scheme.

Dial should be a starter in the NFL. But he is better-suited to be positioned in a 3-4 scheme, using his strength and power as a two-gap player rather than adapt to a one-gap scheme in which quickness and agility are the main requirements.

DE Aaron Lynch
Before sustaining an ankle injury, Lynch had done everything the 49ers wanted of him – including reporting to camp at the weight that was ordered. Lynch also looked very good in the 49ers’ exhibition opener, recording two sacks against Kansas City.

But Lynch’s spot is not guaranteed, by any means. Arik Armstead, Elvis Dumervil, Ronald Blair and rookie Pita Taumoepenu all can play similar roles. If Lynch does not eat well or maintain his conditioning while rehabbing from his ankle injury, he could erase all of the positive steps he took at the beginning of camp.

TE Vance McDonald
The onus was on McDonald at the beginning of camp to win his way onto the team. His solid play has increased his odds of a roster spot, but it is not a sure thing. This is a position where all the incumbents – McDonald, Garrett Celek and Blake Bell -- face stiff challenges.

George Kittle will definitely be on the team. Blocking specialist Logan Paulsen and rookie Cole Hikutini are also in the mix. Hikutini does not appear ready to be a contributor this season. If they waive him with hopes of placing him on the practice squad, it seems unlikely another team would claim him for their 53-man roster. But is that a chance the 49ers are willing to take?

DE Tank Carradine
Carradine appears to be on solid footing at the 49ers’ big-end position, considering he remains on the first-team defense despite the addition of Solomon Thomas, the No. 3 overall selection. But it seems to be only a matter of time before Thomas takes on a greater role. Carradine could still be kept around as a backup.

Ronald Blair, a fifth-round draft pick in 2016, was buried on the depth chart at the beginning of camp. And a pulled groin muscle that has kept him out of action for more than a week does not help is cause, either.