The 49ers opened their rookie minicamp with a practice on Friday. Here are some takeaways and observations from a sun-splashed afternoon at the team facility in Santa Clara.
1. Nearly 40 players took the field for the session, including all 23 of the 49ers’ freshly-acquired rookies. Even defensive tackle Kalia Davis, who’s still rehabbing from an ACL tear, was on hand. Davis worked with a trainer on the side.
Thirteen players began weekend tryouts for the 49ers. Most of them are rookies, but veteran tight end Troy Fumagalli (who’s been with the Broncos, Texans and Patriots over four seasons in the NFL) and quarterback Manny Wilkins Jr. (who spent 2019 on the Packers’ practice squad) also partook.
Two 49ers with a year of practice squad experience, fullback Josh Hokit and offensive lineman Alfredo Gutierrez, also took part. Both are eligible for this rookie minicamp since neither was on the active roster last season.
2. Rookie quarterback Brock Purdy, the 49ers’ seventh-round pick (No. 262, the last pick in the draft) out of Iowa State, and receiver Danny Gray enjoyed the most shine. The day saw a passing-oriented affair that allowed the speedy Gray, two weeks after the 49ers drafted him in the third round, to show off his wheels against fellow NFL newcomers.
“I want to take the top off of defenses,” Gray said Thursday upon arriving at the facility.
The SMU product got his wish on Friday. He made a leaping grab far along the sideline against defensive back Qwuantrezz Knight, an undrafted signing out of UCLA. Later, Wilkins floated a deep pass to Gray, who was running a go route. The pass initially appeared to be overthrown, but Gray reached it on a sprint and made the catch with his fingertips.
Rookie QB Brock Purdy in a 49ers uniform for the first time pic.twitter.com/NQnawclz62
— David Lombardi (@LombardiHimself) May 13, 2022
3. Friday’s 7-on-7 passing-league vibe came out of necessity, as the 49ers suited up only two defensive linemen. Those were second-round USC product Drake Jackson and tackle Kevin Atkins, an undrafted addition out of Fresno State.
Both players enjoyed the full attention of animated 49ers defensive line coach Kris Kocurek, and that meant a strenuous workout. At one point, Jackson’s hands were on his helmet as he strained to catch his breath.
4. Coach Kyle Shanahan and general manager John Lynch took a hands-off approach to the proceedings, watching most 7-on-7 action from a deep centerfield vantage point — a good 40 yards away from the line of scrimmage.
During OTAs and training camp, Shanahan usually stands behind the line of scrimmage and directs offensive affairs with a play sheet in his hand. On Friday, it seemed that new 49ers assistant Anthony Lynn and pass-game coordinator Bobby Slowik handled those duties.
5. Before team drills, Lynn — the running backs coach replacing Bobby Turner, who is taking a year off as he recovers from knee surgery — warmed up a crew of 49ers’ running backs.
That group included rookie Ty Davis-Price, who told reporters before the session that he intends to play between 220 and 222 pounds this season.
Davis-Price, a bona fide power runner, weighed about 225 pounds at LSU last season. He cut to 211 pounds for the NFL Scouting Combine, and some had assumed that he’d play closer to that lighter weight for the 49ers. Past Shanahan running backs, after all, have typically weighed in closer to 200 pounds.
But Davis-Price’s intention to run at 220 pounds signals that the 49ers are indeed trying to add more thump to a backfield that might be asked to execute more inside-zone runs with Trey Lance presumptively taking over the starting quarterback role.
6. Lance briefly observed part of Friday’s rookie minicamp practice. Former Broncos coach Vic Fangio was also on hand. Fangio was the 49ers’ defensive coordinator from 2011-14, back when Jim Harbaugh was the head coach.
Fangio, who lives in Florida, is not currently with a team. He said he was just observing.
7. Rookie cornerback Tariq Castro-Fields, one of the 49ers’ sixth-round picks, nearly intercepted a pass from Purdy to Gray. The Penn State product jumped a quick-out pattern, but narrowly missed the throw. Gray hauled it in and took off running. That was the closest that the defense came to logging an interception.
Purdy also connected with running back Jordan Mason, an undrafted signee out of Georgia Tech, on a quick hitter to the sideline. He misfired to Fumagalli on an intermediate throw over the middle. The ball glanced off the 6-foot-6 tight end’s fingertips.
8. The splashiest play involving a pair of players attending on a tryout basis came on a deep toss from Wilkins. Keke Chism, a 6-5 wideout out of Missouri, leapt to make the grab over West Florida cornerback Shahman Moore.
That play featured legitimate height on both sides, as Moore is 6-1. But Chism, who might be the tallest wideout the 49ers have had on their practice field in quite some time, owned the definite advantage.
9. Offensive line coach Chris Foerster put in his first on-field work with the 49ers’ bevy of new bodies up front. Fourth-round pick Spencer Burford (UTSA) and sixth-round selection Nick Zakelj (Fordham) were both active in blocking drills. So were the team’s undrafted signees along the front. That group featured Arizona State’s Dohnovan West, Mercer’s Jason Poe and Minnesota’s Sam Schlueter.
The 49ers currently envision that all of those players with the exception of Schlueter, a 6-6 tackle, will line up for them at guard.
Chris Foerster works with the 49ers rookie O-linemen for the first time: Nick Zakelj, Spencer Burford, Dohnovan West pic.twitter.com/CDRWTb4vCq
— David Lombardi (@LombardiHimself) May 13, 2022
10. The 49ers officially signed all 14 of their undrafted free agents in time for Friday’s practice. To make room for those transactions, they had to waive former Stanford receiver Connor Wedington, who spent a chunk of 2021 on the team’s practice squad.
The 49ers now have all 90 of their offseason roster spots filled. Any signings moving forward will require a corresponding transaction to make room.
(Top photo of Danny Gray: Jeff Chiu / Associated Press)