49ers rookies hit the sled at first minicamp
The 49ers will assemble Tuesday for the start of organized team activities without one of their first-round draft picks, guard Joshua Garnett. The rest of their big rookie class, however, will be on hand.
NFL rules prohibit players from joining their teams for OTAs until the current senior class has graduated. Most colleges and universities hold commencement ceremonies in May, so most of the 49ers’ rookies will be able to practice Tuesday through Thursday, the first of nine OTA sessions the team will hold over the next few weeks.
Stanford, however, is on the quarter system, so Garnett can’t join teammates until June 8. Oregon also is on the quarter system. But because defensive lineman DeForest Buckner, the 49ers’ other first-round pick, already graduated, he is eligible to attend.
So are Stanford wide receiver Devon Cajuste and Oregon lineman Alex Balducci, both of whom were undrafted.
The 49ers have received big contributions from at least one rookie over the last three seasons, from safety Eric Reid in 2013 to outside linebacker Aaron Lynch in 2014 to another safety, Jaquiski Tartt, last season.
Both Buckner and Garnett will be gunning for starting roles this season. Some others who have a shot at sizable roles in Year 1 for the 49ers:
▪ Defensive lineman Ronald Blair. The 49ers have found good value in the fifth round in recent years with players like Lynch, defensive lineman Quinton Dial and center Daniel Kilgore. Blair appears to have potential as well. He can play a number of spots, although his initial role may be as a pass-rush specialist.
▪ Nose tackle Darren Lake. He went undrafted last month, but with starting nose tackle Ian Williams dealing with another ankle issue, the 49ers could have an opening at the position at the start of the season. Lake became buried on a very talented Alabama defensive line last year and also probably was hurt by the overall defensive-line depth in the recent draft. He has impressive size – 6-foot-2, 329 pounds – and has the longest arms of anyone in San Francisco’s rookie class.
▪ Running back Kelvin Taylor. The 49ers have no proven depth at running back after starter Carlos Hyde, who has been unable to stay healthy in his first two NFL seasons. Taylor, a sixth-round pick, has been well-prepared for what lies ahead by his father, Fred Taylor, who played 13 NFL seasons and ranks 16th – one spot behind ex-49ers tailback Frank Gore – on the NFL’s all-time rushing list.
“Patience, trust the hole, trust the play,” Kelvin Taylor said when asked about his dad’s best advice. “And just go out and have fun. ‘You’re a natural runner’ – that’s what he’s always told me. ‘You were born to do this. So just go out there and play the game, and everything’s going to fall into place.’ ”
Notes – Taylor’s chances to play as a rookie improved a bit on Sunday when fellow running back Jarryd Hayne announced he was retiring from the NFL to try out for Fiji’s Olympic rugby squad. The 49ers placed Hayne on the reserved/retired list Monday, which means they have an open roster spot.
▪ Quarterback Colin Kaepernick was back in Vail, Colo., on Friday for a checkup on his recent shoulder and knee surgeries. Kaepernick’s range of motion has returned to normal, and he has resumed throwing, but he still has not been medically cleared for practice.
▪ No 49ers are among the 41 rookies invited to the annual Rookie Premier marketing event Thursday through Saturday in Los Angeles. Quarterback Jeff Driskel declined his invitation.