49ers mailbag: Don't expect much from rookie class

July 12, 2012, 4:35 pm
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There are eight days until rookies report for 49ers' training camp. But will any of those guys who show up at the team's practice facility on July 21 have much of an impact this season?Q: What rookie do you see making the biggest impact? (Danny Esparza)
The player with the best chance of making a contribution on offense or defense is former Oregon running back LaMichael James, whom the 49ers selected in the second round.I'm still of the opinion that Kendall Hunter is the 49ers' second-best running back behind Frank Gore. But the 49ers would not have selected the dynamic James if they did not envision a role for him as a rookie.I find it difficult to believe that first-round pick A.J. Jenkins can supplant Michael Crabtree, Randy Moss or Mario Manningham to find a steady role as one of the team's top three wide receivers. So it might be difficult for him to earn the right to put on a uniform as part of the active 46 players on game days.Jenkins' value as a first-round pick will be measured over the course of his four-year deal, so let's not get too carried away with expecting much production early in his career.
I don't know that there was any player the 49ers could've selected at No. 30 overall -- at any position -- who could've made an impact on offense or defense as a rookie.Guard Joe Looney (fourth round) did not participate in the offseason program due to a foot injury. He'll have a difficult time landing on the regular-season, game-day roster as one of seven active offensive linemen. Sixth-round pick Jason Slowey, who converts to center, will fight for a roster spot.Outside linebacker Darius Fleming sustained a torn ACL in rookie minicamp, and likely saw his season end before it ever began. Seventh-round pick Cam Johnson, also an outside linebacker, had a clean-up surgery in the offseason and should be fine for camp. His hopes are likely tied to special teams.Safety Trenton Robinson has a solid chance to win a roster spot as the No. 4 safety behind Donte Whitner, Dashon Goldson and C.J. Spillman.So that's why the answer is James . . . by default.
Q: Will FS Dashon Goldson miss part of training camp? (Tyler Hanley)
Goldson will play for the 49ers this season. The sides have until the Monday deadline to work out a long-term extension. Otherwise, Goldson will sign the one-year, 6.212 million deal and be scheduled for free agency again next year.RELATED: Goldson -- 'I'll still be a 49er'
Of course, Goldson has provided no indication of when he plans to sign the one-year deal -- if the sides fail to reach a long-term pact. He remains focused on a long-term contract, and there's no reason for him to show his cards and, perhaps, lose some bargaining power before Monday. After Monday, he has no bargaining power.
What Goldson has to keep in mind is that if he returns on a one-year deal, he must have a strong season to get a multi-year contract next year. And the way he can do that is with a good 2012 season.The 49ers open against Green Bay, so Goldson's biggest challenge of the season comes in Week 1. He better be ready.

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