The Rookie Hype Index: Volume II
A few weeks ago, the rookie hype index made it's debut, sorting various members of the San Francisco 49ers' 2017 draft class by how much attention they have received. With plenty of training camp practices in the books and the first preseason game with the Kansas City Chiefs on the horizon, it's time for volume two.
LOTS of Hype
It's been difficult to read anything about the 49ers during training camp that hasn't featured some mention of Reuben Foster. The Niners' second first-round pick in 2017 had three interceptions in his first four practices and has continued to make plays. With Malcolm Smith out for the year, expect Foster to receive a huge amount of scrutiny in preseason.
Fifth-round pick Trent Taylor is another whose star is seemingly continuing to rise. The diminutive slot receiver has been widely lauded for his ability to create separation, make one-handed grabs and haul in impressive catches on the sideline, leading team-mate Aldrick Robinson to dub him 'toe tap', per Niners Nation.
In the first edition of the hype index, defensive lineman D.J. Jones was an afterthought. How times change. The former Ole Miss defender now appears a near lock to make the roster after an outstanding camp to this point in which he has won in one-on-one drills with his athleticism and short-area quickness.
Jones' performances in practice have led defensive coordinator Robert Saleh to say of him: "He's showing that the game's not too big for him. He needs to continue to work on his fundamentals and the things that we're asking him to do but from a strength standpoint, the effort, the strength, he's got all those tools."
The signing of undrafted free agent Matt Breida was met with a great deal of excitement, the Georgia Southern prospect having earned the top SPARQ score among running backs in the 2017 class, and he has lived up to the hype. Breida put on a show as a runner and a receiver in the 49ers' open practice on Saturday and it is no surprise he made the cut in the first roster projection from NBC Sports Bay Area's Matt Maiocco.
Third overall pick Solomon Thomas started camp playing catchup after missing OTAs and minicamp but, while there hasn't been a great deal of noise about the former Stanford defensive lineman's performances, he has received some words of praise. Kyle Shanahan, per Joe Fann of 49ers.com, pointed to Thomas' quickness, and pass rusher Elvis Dumervil, according to ESPN's Nick Wagoner expects him to become a "dominant player".
C.J. Beathard was seen by many as an underwhelming pick at quarterback in the third round but, such have been the strides he has made in camp, that Shanahan conceded he is now competing with Matt Barkley for the backup job.
"They've been competing," Shanahan said, per Wagoner. "I think they've had even reps. I think it's a good battle for us. We've been looking at it every day and they're going to make it tough on us."
Fourth-round running back Joe Williams has turned it around after something of a poor start to camp and there is still plenty of expectation surrounding tight end George Kittle, though that has been checked somewhat by a hamstring injury, which has limited him to individual drills.
In Kittle's absence, UDFA tight end Cole Hikutini has received praise for his ability to beat linebackers with his athleticism, and is another tipped by Maiocco to make the 53-man roster.
Victor Bolden Jr and Kendrick Bourne have both garnered plaudits for big plays in battling for a sixth and final spot on the wide receiver depth chart, and the amount of attention drawn to Lorenzo Jerome's instincts and Chanceller James' physicality suggests one of that duo could earn a roster spot at safety.
Little to No Hype
Any hope Ahkello Witherspoon could come straight in and start at cornerback appears to have been dispelled. The third-round pick has been described as heavy-footed in camp and has been run over by both Carlos Hyde and Vance McDonald. However he did, according to Matt Barrows of The Sacramento Bee, enjoy a strong practice on Friday.
There still has been very little hype surrounding edge rusher Pita Taumoepenu and a practice squad berth looks to be the most likely outcome for him.
Tried at both cornerback and safety, Adrian Colbert is reportedly a better fit for the latter position but would seem to have a fight on his hands to make the roster despite having received some plaudits for his evident natural burst and range.