Veterans feel the heat after 49ers add strong draft class

Veterans feel the heat after 49ers add strong draft class
May 12, 2014, 7:30 am
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It has an impact on every running back on the roster, as Hyde’s arrival would seem to bump down everyone behind Gore on the depth chart.
Matt Maiocco on 49ers drafting Carlos Hyde

The 49ers added 12 draft picks, plus veteran wide receiver Stevie Johnson, to their 90-man roster over the week.

The club already had one of the strongest rosters in the NFL. And with more talent coming to the 49ers, there figures to be even more competition for roster spots.

“We’re firm believers that the roster can’t be 20 deep or 25 deep or even 45 deep,” 49ers general manager Trent Baalke said. “It’s got to be 53 deep. And we try to build the strongest 53-man roster that we can.

“And in order to do that you have to have good football players. You can never have enough of them. Because if you have 63 of them competing for 53 spots, it makes those 53 that earn them that much better, and that’s the goal.”

[RELATED: 49ers turn 11 draft picks into a dozen rookies]

Here is a list of the 49ers draft picks and which veterans could feel the impact of the moves:

Safety Jimmie Ward, Northern Illinois
He enters the competition and should become the front-runner to win the job as the 49ers’ nickel cornerback. Perrish Cox and Eric Wright have NFL experience in that role, but the 49ers were clearly looking for an upgrade. Craig Dahl, the 49ers' backup safety last season, will see competition for his roles on defense and special teams.

Running back Carlos Hyde, Ohio State
Hyde’s addition clearly sets up the 49ers for life after Frank Gore. It has an impact on every running back on the roster, as Hyde’s arrival would seem to bump down everyone behind Gore on the depth chart. Gore and Kendall Hunter have contracts that expire after this season. As early as next season, Hyde and Marcus Lattimore could be the team’s top two running backs. Both will be signed through the 2017 season.

Center Marcus Martin

The 49ers turned the page on veteran Jonathan Goodwin after last season, opting to get younger at center. Daniel Kilgore, whom the 49ers signed to a modest contract extension this offseason, was the front-runner to win the job. With the third-round selection of Martin, there now figures to be stiff competition.

Linebacker Chris Borland, Wisconsin
The 49ers have no intention of allowing NaVorro Bowman get on the field for Week 1 of the regular season as he continues to make progress during his rehabilitation from the knee injury he sustained during the NFC Championship game. Borland is a decorated Big Ten player who figures to battle Michael Wilhoite for the job to line up alongside Patrick Willis during Bowman’s absence. Borland and Stanford’s Shayne Skov, who agreed to terms as an undrafted free agent, have chances to make impacts on special teams. Their additions ramp up the competition for such players as Nick Moody, Bubba Ventrone and Kassim Osgood.

Guard Brandon Thomas, Clemson
Thomas’ arrival has no impact on the 2014 roster because the 49ers will keep him on the non-football injury list for the entire season after he sustained a torn ACL during a pre-draft workout with the New Orleans Saints. Where Thomas comes into play is in 2015. Left guard Mike Iupati, who enters the final year of his rookie contract, is in line for a lucrative contract. If he’s not back in 2015, Thomas has a chance to take over.

Wide receiver Bruce Ellington
, South Carolina

He becomes the fastest player among the 49ers’ wideouts. Michael Crabtree, Anquan Boldin, Quinton Patton and Ellington would appear to be roster locks. Veteran Stevie Johnson, who is actually the front-runner for the No. 3 job, would have to play himself out of a roster spot. Ellington’s arrival makes it more difficult on veterans Brandon Lloyd and Jon Baldwin to end up on the 49ers’ 53-man roster. Crabtree enters the final year of his deal, and Ellington might make the 49ers less-likely to devote big dollars to retain him. Also, disgruntled LaMichael James, who is well down the depth chart at running back, will face a challenge to hold onto his job as the 49ers’ return specialist with Ellington happily on the roster.

Cornerback Dontae Johnson, North Carolina State
Cornerback Keith Reaser, Florida Atlantic
Cornerback Kenneth Acker, SMU
Baalke has a track record of finding defensive backs, and Johnson and Acker have legitimate opportunities to win roster spots behind presumptive starters Tramaine Brock and Chris Culliver. Second-year speedster Darryl Morris was effective on special teams, and he has a strong chance of sticking around to continue his development. The additions of Johnson and Acker means more competition for veteran Cox and Wright, as well as Chris Cook. It does not figure that all three of those veterans will make the 53-man roster. Reaser will not be available this season. He is rehabbing from a second ACL surgery after his body rejected the ligament from a surgery in October.

Outside linebacker Aaron Lynch, South Florida
One NFL scout told that Lynch was the “steal of the draft” after the 49ers selected him in the fifth round. Lynch is listed as an outside linebacker, but his sole responsibility as a rookie will be to line up at defensive end and rush the quarterback as part of the nickel defense. Lynch will compete with Corey Lemonier, a third-round draft pick from a year ago, to be the 49ers’ first pass-rusher off the sideline behind Aldon Smith and Ahmad Brooks.

Defensive lineman Kaleb Ramsey
, Boston College

The 49ers added a player who has the ability to play several different spots along the defensive line. The starters – Justin Smith, Ray McDonald and Glenn Dorsey – appear set. Ian Williams began last season as the starting nose tackle before a season-injury injury. Tank Carradine will be on the team, for sure. That leaves Ramsey competing with Tony Jerod-Eddie, Demarcus Dobbs and Quinton Dial for one or two roster spots.

Fullback Trey Millard, Oklahoma
He sustained a torn ACL on Oct. 26, and does not figure to have much of a chance to make an impact as a rookie. Bruce Miller is entrenched as the starter. Millard’s versatility, including his special-teams value, gives him a chance to win a spot in the future.

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