The preseason grading period has come to a close for the 49ers’ draft picks. There were a few nice improvements this week along with a few who took a step back. Let’s take a look at how the rookies performed against the Raiders on Sunday.
Trey Lance: Grade C (week 1 grade, B-, week 2 grade, B-)
Against the Raiders, Lance completed less than half of his pass attempts for the second time in three preseason games. Lance’s final line over the three games was 19-41, three touchdowns and one interception.
Kyle Shanahan gave Lance opportunities to win the job, but the rookie couldn’t capitalize. Playing with the starters there were missed receivers resulting in incompletions, sacks and interceptions. As the game would move on and the backup defenders entered the game Lance’s performance would pick up.
One thing that stood out yesterday was the effect Lance had on the defense in the running game. His running ability forces defenses to keep an eye on him, and the slight hesitation this creates is all that it takes for Raheem Mostert or Trey Sermon to get past the defense.
If Kyle Shanahan decides that he wants to commit to running the ball about 35 times per game, having Lance be the starting quarterback makes sense. The 49ers offensive line is built to run over opponents, and keeping the ball on the ground will keep the clock moving. In addition, the San Francisco defense looks like it should be dominant and this would appear to be a winning formula.
Aaron Banks: Did not play (week 1 grade, C)
Banks suffered a shoulder injury against Kansas City and has yet to return.
Trey Sermon : Grade B (week 1 grade, C+)
Sermon returned to action after being held out against the Chargers, gaining 37 yards on seven attempts. Firmly entrenched as the backup to Raheem Mostert, Sermon has been able to take the adjustments recommended by the coaching staff to counter the increased speed of the game at the NFL level and looked solid with a number of tough runs on Sunday.
Ambry Thomas: Grade D (week 1 grade, B, week 2 grade C)
Thomas has been all over the board during training camp and the preseason. Last week he gave up a deep pass down the right sideline, but showed grit on the next play by coming up to make a nice stop on a running play to his side.
Thomas wasn’t particularly bad in coverage against the Raiders, although he still struggled to close the gap on receivers.
The reason for the low grade was Thomas’ complete whiff on an attempted tackle of Raiders tight end Nick Bowers that resulted in a Las Vegas touchdown instead of just a short completion.
Jaylon Moore: Grade B- (week 1 grade C, week 2 grade B)
After starting the first two preseason games at left tackle, Moore would be the third off the bench behind Trent Williams and Shon Coleman. Moore and Coleman have been competing for the swing tackle position, and it appeared that the reason for the move was twofold, Moore had missed time during the week due to injury and the coaching staff wanted to give Coleman a look on the left side after having him play primarily on the right during the first two games.
Moore followed up his strong performance against the Chargers with another one against Las Vegas. He once again did a good job in the run game, but his grade is dropped slightly due to allowing a pressure on one of his 15 pass blocking snaps.
Deommodore Lenoir: Grade C (week 1 grade B, week 2 grade B+)
Gave up a 27-yard completion on a deep throw down the right sideline when he failed to turn his head or get a hand up. Other than the one misstep which lowered his grade, Lenoir had a solid game and appears to be the better of the two rookie cornerbacks.
Lenoir appears to be the backup to K’Waun Williams nickel corner. Veteran B.W. Webb had held the position until he was released early last week. Lenoir stepped into the role this week and played well from the inside.
Talanoa Hufanga : Grade B (week 1 grade B-, week 2 grade B)
After starting at strong safety last week, Hufanga made the move back to free safety with the return of Jaquiski Tartt to the lineup. Hufanga’s versatility makes him a perfect fit for the 49ers’ defense.
Hufanga would record only one tackle against the Raiders, but he would also force quarterback Nathan Peterman to throw the ball out of bounds on a blitz. He looks like another late-round steal by John Lynch and the 49ers personnel department.
Elijah Mitchell: Grade C (No prior grade)
Mitchell made his preseason debut against the Raiders, gaining 24 yards on six carries with a number of strong finishes.
In addition to his rushing, Mitchell made the tackle on the opening kickoff of the game and later showed off his return skills, totaling 60 yards on two kickoff returns with a long of 45. Having Mitchell return kicks may allow the 49ers some additional flexibility with the decision on a sixth wide receiver.
The grade for Mitchell gets knocked down a bit due to taking the wrong route on a couple of running plays resulting in big losses for the offense. This could somewhat be expected after missing two weeks of practice due to an abductor strain, but it needs to be cleaned up moving forward.