Projecting 49ers' Top NFL Training Camp Breakout Players

Joe TanseyJuly 27, 2022

Projecting 49ers' Top NFL Training Camp Breakout Players

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    Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images

    San Francisco 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan is known for finding unknown running backs and turning them into stars.

    All you have to do is look at the team's 2021 season for the latest example of that. Elijah Mitchell went from sixth-round pick to main ball carrier.

    Mitchell is expected to hold the No. 1 running back role in 2022, but there are plenty of unknowns beneath him on the depth chart.

    All it takes is one breakout training camp performance to become the latest unheralded star in the Shanahan offensive system. 2022 NFL draft pick Tyrion Davis-Price has the potential to fill that role.

    Davis-Price's status as a rookie will not matter in the running back competition. If he is the best option, he will be the No. 2 running back and earn snaps behind Mitchell.

    San Francisco has a few rookies that could explode during training camp and become impact players as early as Week 1. Drake Jackson carries similar potential as the 49ers try to fill the pass-rushing void opposite Nick Bosa.

Tyrion Davis-Price

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    Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images

    Tyrion Davis-Price's final season at LSU did not garner as much praise as other top running backs.

    LSU was mired in mediocrity after winning the national championship and few eyes were on Davis-Price and the Tigers offense on a weekly basis.

    Davis-Price quietly turned in his first 1,000-yard season at the collegiate level and he caught the attention of the 49ers in the middle of the 2022 draft.

    The 93rd overall pick has a chance to become one of the draft's best value picks right away because he could excel in Kyle Shanahan's running back-friendly system.

    The No. 2 running back position is wide open. Davis-Price will be competing with Jeff Wilson Jr., Trey Sermon and JaMycal Hasty for snaps behind Mitchell.

    Wilson has dealt with injuries throughout his NFL career, Sermon did not impress in his rookie season and Hasty has been a backup for his entire NFL career.

    A strong camp could boost Davis-Price from the middle of that competition to the No. 2 spot on the depth chart.

    The No. 2 running back could be even more important to the 49ers in 2022 since they should try to limit the carries earned by Deebo Samuel.

    San Francisco needs two reliable running backs to provide some comfort to Trey Lance and Davis-Price has the potential to scoop up that role as his own.

Drake Jackson

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    AP Photo/Jeff Chiu

    The player selected one round before Davis-Price could have a similar impact on the defensive side of the ball.

    Second-round pick Drake Jackson will compete for the open pass-rushing spot on the defense opposite Nick Bosa.

    Jackson's main competition will likely be Samson Ebukam, but the USC product could create an edge from the start of practices.

    Jackson recorded 25 tackles for loss and 12.5 sacks in three college seasons and he was consistently one of USC's best players in seasons that featured plenty of turmoil.

    His consistency over three seasons and ability to line up in a three-point stance, or upright, makes him a potentially menacing figure on the 49ers' defensive line.

    Ebukam recorded 4.5 sacks for the 49ers last season, but he has never recorded more than five sacks in a single NFL season.

    San Francisco needs more volume in the sack department to complement Bosa and Jackson could bring that to the field as early as Week 1.

Marcus Johnson

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    AP Photo/Jeff Chiu

    The 49ers have all sorts of question marks beneath Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk on the wide receiver depth chart.

    Samuel, Aiyuk and George Kittle should gobble up the majority of the targets from Trey Lance, but the first-year starting quarterback needs more players to work with.

    Marcus Johnson has not had more than 300 receiving yards in any of his five NFL seasons. He was primarily being used as a depth piece in Philadelphia, Indianapolis and Tennessee.

    Johnson could upgrade his status on the depth chart from a fringe player on the 53-man roster to No. 3 wide receiver over the next month.

    Johnson knows what it takes to make an NFL roster in training camp and he could take advantage of his change of scenery to emerge as the No. 3 wideout.

    Rookie Danny Gray, Ray-Ray McCloud, Malik Turner and Jauan Jennings are the other wide receivers fighting for snaps in the 49ers training camp.

    The No. 3 wide receiver spot may seem like an advantageous goal with Jennings already in place, but it is important to note that he only had 282 receiving yards in 2021.

    Jennings is the favorite to be the No. 3 wide receiver, but he may not run away with that position as easily if others challenge him throughout training camp.

    The No. 4 wide receiver spot could be important to the 49ers as well since some of its top targets have dealt with injuries in recent seasons. Johnson can use his experience to make the roster and then challenge for more snaps as the regular season goes on.

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