49ers rookies make impressions during first practice

The 49ers opened rookie mini-camp Friday afternoon. All nine 2022 draft picks were in attendance, the entire 14 player undrafted free agent class, and 13 tryout players. Also in attendance were fullback Josh Hokit, offensive lineman Alfredo Gutierrez and wide receiver Conor Wedington, all of whom were on San Francisco’s practice squad in 2021.


Here is what stood out from the 80-minute practice, watched from the sidelines by former Denver Broncos head coach and 49ers defensive coordinator Vic Fangio.


Spencer Burford – The fourth-round draft pick from Texas-San Antonio was impressive. Burford showed explosiveness off the snap, quickly getting down the line or to the second level.


While the speed was certainly on display with Burford, it was hard to miss how he consistently struck the man with his hands. Every strike was loud, like a puncher landing a blow on his opponent.


Nick Zakelj – After spending his entire career at Fordham as a tackle, Zakelj is transitioning to the inside of the offensive line with San Francisco. 


The sixth-round pick from Fordham displayed solid footwork and hand placement throughout the practice. Zakelj’s striking was not as loud as Burford’s; however, it wasn’t too far behind, and he showed quick feet.


Samuel Womack – The fifth-round pick out of Toledo showcased his ability to use his hands and the line of scrimmage and run with receivers. 


Lined up against Danny Gray, Womack got into the receiver quickly at the line of scrimmage and ran stride for stride with the speedy wideout down the right sideline.


Danny Gray – On the first play of 7-on-7, Tariq Castro-Fields was able to get the best of Gray on a short slant, jamming the receive at the line of scrimmage before breaking up the pass from Brock Purdy. 


Later in practice, Gray and Castro-Fields were matched up again. This time, Castro-Fields could not get his hands on Gray, who beat the defender to make the reception on a deep throw down the middle.


Gray also beat Qwuantrezz Knight on a streak down the left sideline for another long reception. The former SMU standout looked the part of an NFL wide receiver today.


Tariq Castro-Fields – Had the solid pass breakup early on Gray and then was beat deep down the middle.


On the first play of the second 7-on-7 period, Castro-Fields did an excellent job driving on a pass from Purdy to Gray in the left flat. It looked like this was going to be an interception; however, Castro-Fields could not make the grab or even knock the ball away. Instead, Gray made the reception and took the ball down the sideline. These are the type of plays Castro-Fields will need to make moving forward.


Brock Purdy – Mr. Irrelevant had a solid day throwing the ball. That’s not unexpected, considering there is no pass rush during 7-on-7. Purdy connected deep with Danny Gray twice and was consistent on throws underneath.


Tyrion Davis-Price – A non-padded practice is not the best way to showcase his talent for the bruising running back. Davis-Price dropped the first ball thrown in his direction but was able to haul in the next checkdown that came his way. 


Keke Chism – The former Missouri wide receiver is taking part in rookie mini-camp on a tryout basis, and he made the most impressive play of the day. 


Running deep down the right sideline, Chism went up high over the outstretched arms of the defensive back to grab an underthrown pass from fellow tryout invitee Manny Wilkins Jr.


I had no idea who Chism was before practice, however, he left an impression.

This article has 11 Comments

    1. FYI – you are more camera friendly than Grant

      Are you not allowed to link to your youtube breakdown?

  1. Good information Jack.

    It sounds like both of our corners have raw talent but need some development. Richard Sherman is a FA. I’d love to have him back under the umbrella of a friendly contract and the understanding that his duel role will be as CB #3 and coach the younger guys.

    Everyday there is no official Mack news is good news. At this point I would be shocked if he did not return for 1 more season.

    I am looking forward to seeing Gray in game situations. Either Aiyuk or Gray will be matched up against the opposing teams #3 corner.

  2. Thanks, Jack..it appears that you’re a little more realistic about rookie camp than Cohn is…I like the report on Buford and Zakelj…just as Brock Purdy is Mr Irrelevant..Grant Cohn is Mr Disparaging

    1. Is Cohn still with SI or has he left? Not clear. One bio
      says he’s a freelancer. Either way, this blog with Jack
      is so much better.

  3. Purdy may make backup and make the team. I like his looks. Niners made an error overpaying whatshisname from last year.

  4. Good stuff Jack. I guess these guys didn’t necessarily stand out but I’m curious if you had any impressions of Leon O’neal and Jason Poe. Poe is especially intriguing to me as perhaps a developmental center. Not ideal size for any other position than Center in the NFL but his athleticism jumps out on tape.

    1. Did not see much of O’Neal on Friday. Poe looked the part of an UDFA. This was practice 1, we’ll see how much progress he’s made by mini-camp next month.

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