San Francisco 49ers Who've Turned Heads in Offseason Workouts

Grant Cohn@@grantcohnFeatured ColumnistJune 8, 2015

San Francisco 49ers Who've Turned Heads in Offseason Workouts

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    George Nikitin/Associated Press

    Several San Francisco 49ers have turned heads during offseason workouts.

    But those players won’t necessarily turns heads during the regular season. The 49ers have practiced in front of the media only three times this offseason, and I attended all three of those practices. We don’t know which players are turning heads when we’re not there.

    And another thing: Offseason workouts bear little resemblance to real games. The Niners haven’t even practiced in pads yet. They’ve done all of their on-field work in T-shirts and shorts.

    So the players who have stood out the most are the players who run—the fast guys. The big guys, the players who block and push and hit—they can’t stand out until they put on the pads. And that won’t happen until training camp in August.

    Until then, here are the 49ers’ five biggest offseason standouts in ascending order.

5. Trent Brown, Offensive Tackle, Rookie

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    John Raoux/Associated Press

    Rookie seventh-round pick Trent Brown was the first-team right tackle during OTAs, presumably until starting right tackle Anthony Davis returned to the team.

    But Davis announced on Friday that he will take at least one year off from football. So Brown might run with the first team the rest of the offseason.

    Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com writes “Brown has made the most strides of any of the team’s rookies since reporting to the team’s practice facility. ... The one characteristic of Brown’s that stands out on the practice field are his nimble feet.”

    He is surprisingly quick in one-on-one pass-rushing drills. And he has 36-inch arms. Once he gets his feet in the proper position, he engulfs the pass-rusher.

    Brown was known as a strong run defender at the University of Florida. If continues to perform well in pass protection, he might win the starting right tackle job.

4. Eli Harold, Outside Linebacker, Rookie

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    Jeff Chiu/Associated Press

    I couldn’t take my eyes off of Eli Harold during last Friday’s one-on-one pass-rushing session.

    I saw him flat-out beat All-Pro left tackle Joe Staley around the edge—just exploded past him and “sacked” the quarterback, meaning he tagged the ball boy standing in the pocket. I haven’t seen a rookie pass-rusher beat Staley during an offseason practice since Aldon Smith in 2011.

    A few minutes later, Harold participated in a two-on-two pass-rush drill. This time he looped to the inside and sacked the quarterback. Easy.

    Later during 11-on-11 team drills, Harold again looped to the inside and again sacked the quarterback. Three sacks on the day for Harold. Easy.

    The Niners have to figure out a way to get him in the game this season. He’s too good to ride the bench.

3. Jerome Simpson, Wide Receiver, Seventh Year

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    Jeff Chiu/Associated Press

    In a recent chat, a reader asked Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee which player's speed stood out the most during training camp. One of the players Barrows mentioned was wide receiver Jerome Simpson.

    During the Niners’ second open practice of OTAs, Simpson made two tough catches during team drills. First, he laid out and caught a missile that Colin Kaepernick threw before Simpson even turned his head. Simpson flipped in the air while making the catch, landed on his feet and ran for a touchdown.

    Later, Simpson burned second-year cornerback Dontae Johnson down the sideline for a 60-yard touchdown.

    Simpson seems like the clear favorite to be the Niners’ No. 3 receiver next season.

2. Reggie Bush, Running Back, 10th Year

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    George Nikitin/Associated Press

    Running back Reggie Bush is the other player Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee mentioned in his chat as standing out this offseason.

    The quarterback rarely threw passes to running backs under head coach Jim Harbaugh and offensive coordinator Greg Roman. But under new head coach Jim Tomsula and new offensive coordinator Geep Chryst, Kaepernick and the rest of the 49ers quarterbacks are throwing passes to running backs left and right.

    Bush clearly is the 49ers’ best receiver out of the backfield—it’s not even close. He has hands like a wide receiver, and he’s quicker and faster than the other running backs. Much quicker and faster.

    Expect the swing pass to Bush to be a staple of the Niners offense next season. And expect Kaepernick’s completion percentage to rise as a result.

1. Bradley Pinion, Punter, Rookie

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    Jeff Chiu/Associated Press

    The 49ers were supposed to have a punter controversy this offseason—veteran All-Pro Andy Lee versus rookie fifth-round pick Bradley Pinion.

    Lee didn’t get a chance to compete. He missed OTAs and Pinion didn’t. Pinion showed up and was so good, the 49ers traded Lee on Saturday to the Cleveland Browns for a seventh-round draft pick in 2017, according to Adam Schefter of ESPN.com.

    “Pinion distinguished himself during offseason workouts with his booming leg, directional punting and hang time,” writes Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com. “He is also expected to handle the team’s kickoff chores, taking over for Phil Dawson, a 16-year veteran.”

    Pinion averaged 42.6 yards per punt last season at Clemson. He’s replacing a punter who averaged 46.8 yards per punt in 2014. Good luck.

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