49ers risers and fallers from Week 1 of camp

With the first week of training camp in the books, it's time to take inventory of where the 49ers stand at each position.

SANTA CLARA, Calif. - The San Francisco 49ers have gone through seven training camp practices under new head coach Jim Tomsula and his coaching staff. With that in mind, it's time to take a look at each position after Week 1 and see where things stand.


Riser: Colin Kaepernick
Overall, the differences in Kaepernick's game after spending six weeks in Arizona during the spring appear to be more between the ears than fundamental. Yes, when breaking down his mechanics his stance might be a little wider and his arm action a little more compact. But there isn't anything we've seen in training camp after one week to make conclusions. Those results will come when the regular season starts Sept. 14.

That being said, Kaepernick appears to be working hard on finding his outlet receivers underneath. His most commonly targeted pass catchers have been his tight ends, either in the flats or underneath the coverage, which looks like an emphasis of the offense. As August goes on, Kaepernick is likely to try more deep throws as he gets more comfortable with Torrey Smith, Jerome Simpson and DeAndrew White.

Faller: Dylan Thompson
It's not that Thompson has played poorly in camp, he just hasn't done what it would take to put himself in the conversation to compete with Blaine Gabbert for the back up job. Thompson appears to have a good grasp of the offense, but hasn't made the "wow" throw that might generate that discussion.


Riser: Eric Reid
Reid, along with a number of players on defense, looks like he's been in the right place at the right time for the majority of camp. His positioning and grasp of the defense are reasons the offense hasn't had many explosive plays. This year, Reid's moved all over the field, including at linebacker during a portion of Wednesday's practice. Instead of being asked to stay in center field, as he was last season under Vic Fangio, Reid is doing a little bit of everything and letting his talent out of the bag.

Faller: Craig Dahl
Depending on how L.J. McCray plays on special teams during the preseason, Dahl will have a hard time cracking the 53-man roster after the team drafted Jaquiski Tartt in the second round in the spring. It's not that Dahl's having a particularly bad camp, he just needs an extraordinary one to beat out the more athletic McCray, assuming the 49ers keep four safeties (not including Jimmie Ward) on the final roster.

Running Back

Riser: Reggie Bush
Bush hasn't done much in camp to this point. In fact, he took his first reps in full team drills Saturday. But Bush, 30, looks spry entering his 10th year in the league. It's clear the 49ers are valuing his receiving skills out of the backfield heavily, and may call upon him to return punts and/or kickoffs once the regular season starts. He looks explosive, which would add a much-needed dynamic to an offense that was far from explosive in 2014.

Faller: Kendall Hunter
Hunter hasn't participated in full-team drills, or done much of anything else so far in camp. Nor should he, considering last season's ACL tear paired with his Achilles injury that caused him to miss the last portion of 2012. But if Bush is healthy, it's unclear what role Hunter will have on the team. For now, Hunter appears to be in a holding pattern while the rest of the running backs are taking all the valuable reps.


Riser: Shareece Wright
Wright has picked Kaepernick twice while playing left cornerback, and looks like a solid fit in Eric Mangini's defense after having a down year in San Diego. He's been working almost exclusively with the first team, which says he had a strong offseason. Wright is fast, athletic, and has consistently prevented the offense from making big plays to his side of the field. As of now, there's no reason to think the first-time 49er won't be starting opposite Tramaine Brock in the opener.

Faller: Jimmie Ward
Brock, the 49ers best corner, has been getting all the reps at Ward's nickel spot so far in camp while the second-year player continues to work his way back foot surgery. Ward has been participating in individual drills, but leaves the field to do conditioning work once the team sessions begin. Dontae Johnson played well both inside at nickel and outside during his rookie season, and has been the first corner on the field, kicking Brock inside, when the defense goes to nickel. For now, it looks like the 49ers are comfortable with that look while Ward is out, and Ward will have to re-earn that nickel job once he's healthy enough to fully participate.


Riser: DeAndrew White
The undrafted rookie already has a nickname given by Jim Tomsula ("Alabama") and has been one of the offense's most explosive players in camp. To be fair, White has done most of his damage down field against reserve defenders. But he gives speed and quickness elements that's uncommon on the offense. What really helps White is his value on special teams. He might have the quickest feet of any returner to take reps, and was a great gunner in college. Explosive receivers with special teams value don't grow on trees, making White a candidate for a spot on the 53-man roster.

Faller: Quinton Patton
It's not that Patton has had a bad camp, big plays just haven't been there. Wright's two interceptions of Kaepernick both came on targets to Patton. That being said, he will have plenty of opportunities to make plays in the preseason. But for now, it's been a relatively "meh" training camp for Patton, who is looking for ways to stand out.

Inside Linebacker

Riser: Nick Moody
Moody has taken all of Michael Wilhoite's reps alongside NaVorro Bowman while Wilhoite sits on the non-football injury list with a leg injury. When Bowman and Patrick Willis played together, they worked so well, in part, because their athleticism mirrored one another. Moody isn't the player Willis was, but he has similar athletic traits to Bowman, and had a very good offseason. Plus, Moody might be the hardest hitter on the team. Running backs have not enjoyed going against him in blitz pickup drills during padded sessions.

Faller: Michael Wilhoite
It must be tough to watch from the sideline while a player really stands out at your position. That's exactly what's happening with Wilhoite, who might be seeing his starting job fade into the abyss. Wilhoite is a smart player and played in all 16 games last year. But Mangini might be asking his linebackers to move around more, which could make Moody a better fit in the defense. Once Wilhoite is healthy enough to play, that battle to start next to Bowman should get very interesting.

Tight End

Riser: Vernon Davis
Davis looks healthy and fast after a miserable 2014. And if the 49ers offense is going to improve like it needs to, they need Davis to become a viable threat. Of course, the first week of training camp won't be remembered when the regular season starts. But, for now, Davis resembles the player San Francisco needs him to be. Rookie Blake Bell also deserves mention for having a strong camp.

Faller: Vance McDonald
McDonald made some nice catches Saturday, including a deep pass on a seam route from Kaepernick deep down field. He still makes some maddening drops. With just 10 catches in his first two years, the 49ers want him to become a more viable target for Kaepernick, particularly as a check down option. His best asset to this point is his blocking. But teams don't invest second-round picks on tight ends just for their blocking.

Outside linebacker

Riser: Eli Harold
Harold's best asset is his speed rush. He's got an explosive first step. But his secondary moves need work, like many young pass rushers. With Aldon Smith no longer in the picture, Harold figures to get plenty of reps. That's already started in training camp, as he gets a lot of his one-on-one reps against Joe Staley. San Francisco needs productive depth at the position to make up for Smith's release.

Faller: Aaron Lynch/Corey Lemonier
Lemonier is looking a lot like the player that struggled to do much of anything in 2014, and not the promising pass rusher of his rookie season. He doesn't have secondary moves and is often stifled in one-on-one drills, even by rookie seventh-round pick Trent Brown. Lemonier would have been very much on the roster bubble if not for Smith's release.

Lynch does not appear healthy or in shape. He's participated sparingly in individual drills and has not done anything during team sessions outside of conditioning. The "sophomore slump" is a bad cliche, but Lynch is primed for it if he doesn't get his body right and back on the practice field.

Offensive tackle

Riser: Joe Staley
Right now, Staley's the 49ers' best player. And it isn't really close. Moving on.

Faller: Sean Hooey
It's not really fair to single out an offensive lineman that only started six games in college. But, yes, Hooey has looked like a third-string tackle that's on his third team since going undrafted three years ago.

Defensive Line

Riser: Ian Williams
To this point, just about everyone along the 49ers defensive line has played well. It's easily their deepest and most talented position. Williams has stood out, in particular, because of his athleticism at nose tackle. He's been a constant disruptor against the interior of the offensive line that is still trying to figure things out. But really, Tony Jerod-Eddie, Glenn Dorsey, or Quinton Dial could have earned the coveted "Riser" title from us here at Niners Digest.

Faller: Kaleb Ramsey
Ramsey, 26, spent six years at Boston College because of injuries, and recently sustained a shoulder injury that has kept him out of practice. He didn't get many reps to begin with, and will have to work his way back from the injury amid the deepest position on the roster.

Offensive guard/Center

Riser: Alex Boone
Having played plenty of left tackle in college, the transition from right guard to left guard hasn't been difficult on Boone. He has very good chemistry with Staley and has done well in both individual and team drills. But given some of the troubles along the right side of the line, will Boone be asked to switch back?

Faller: Joe Looney
The 49ers defense has made a habit of creating bad plays for the offense by blitzing linebackers at Looney, who has struggled against quicker players. Yes, Looney is perhaps in the best shape of his career, but it looks like he's in over his head at center. Over the last two practices, second-year player Marcus Martin has eaten into Looney's reps at center with the first team, with Brandon Thomas and Ian Silberman working in at right guard.

Next story:

Camp report: 49ers move on without Smith

Follow Chris Biderman on Twitter.

E-mail Niners Digest: NinersDigest@gmail.com

Get updates from Niners Digest by following here and become a subscriber to receive access to premium content and analysis.

Niners Digest Top Stories