Inside the 49ers: Top 10 players to spy when camp opens

A month until the 49ers opening training camp, a month until snap judgments are cast on their season’s fate.

Not everyone will show up in 100 percent form.

Veterans and rookies missed plenty of reps in the offseason program for precautionary reasons, and they’ll be eased into action ahead of the true starting line of Sept. 11, when the regular season opens at Chicago.

That group could include Jimmy Garoppolo. He was excused from the offseason program, and if he shows for camp July 26 with a healthy shoulder, his job prospects make for fascinating theater.

In the non-Garoppolo category, these are the 10 players I’m most curious to see at camp:

10. Danny Gray, wide receiver

This blazing rookie is supposed to add a deep-threat element, but a hamstring issue kept him out of too many offseason practices to prove his rookie capability. Let’s see him run, recover, and run again.

9. Jake Brendel, center

Alex Mack’s retirement should lead to Brendel’s promotion and first starting job since 2015 at UCLA. His biggest competition could from Daniel Brunskill, last year’s right guard who finished 2020 at center.

8. Drake Jackson, defensive end

The 49ers’ top draft pick (second round, USC) may not unseat Samson Ebukam for first-team reps, but he should get greatly tested against All-Pro left tackle Trent Williams.

7. Aaron Banks, guard

Putting on the pads for full contact will give everyone a better gage to see if Banks is ready for the NFL, after a redshirt year remaking his 325-pound body.

6. Sam Womack III, nickel back

The cornerback corps is headlined by the arrival of Charvarius Ward, and it could feature an inspiring (or delayed) comeback from Jason Verrett, but the potential of Womack to seize the nickel-back role is intriguing. Otherwise, veteran Darqueze Dennard wins the job, or a rotation ensues with Emmanuel Moseley shifting inside and Ambry Thomas subbing in at right corner.

5. Tarvarius Moore, safety

A year removed from an Achilles tear, Moore did not seem hindered (nor amazingly fast) in spring workouts, so he must show more to win the strong safety job over Talanoa Hufanga.

4. Mike McGlinchey, right tackle

How McGlinchey returns from quadriceps repair could dictate how comfortable Lance gets as a passer. Also, the 49ers will need to see whether they should invest more in their 2018 top pick, who’ll either make $11 million this season (fifth-year option) or prove worthy of an extension.

3. Elijah Mitchell, running back

The 49ers stashed their 2021 rushing leader away from the offseason practices while he recovered from a knee procedure. Camp affords him time to callus up his body and bang into defenders – or sprint past them like 2021 again.

2. Javon Kinlaw, defensive tackle

Kinlaw and McGlinchey worked their tails off this offseason in rehab, and it’s Kinlaw who faces more pressure to perform as a former first-round pick (2020). Kinlaw is thrilled with how his surgically repaired knee has responded. He’s leaner, and he’s possibly still meaner on the field than any teammate, which bodes well if he unleashes that mentality against offensive linemen.

1. Trey Lance, quarterback

This could be the start of something very, very big. Lance’s strong arm, nimble legs, necessary leadership, upbeat attitude and in-check humility were evident as QB1 through the offseason program. Camp offers his final tune-up before his career begins as a full-time starter and future star or bust.

Contributed by local news sources

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