49ers' rookie class offers solid starters for present and future

The 49ers found their future left tackle in Mike McGlinchey and several other pieces they can build around moving forward. Bob Kupbens/Icon Sportswire

SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- The San Francisco 49ers leaned heavily on rookies for the second consecutive year in 2018, with a whopping seven of them starting at least one game. The Niners' rookie class played 3,832 snaps in 2018, sixth among rookie classes in the league.

While there were the expected bumps in the road for many of those rookies, the Niners got a good look at their latest draft class and walked away from the 2018 season with a good handle on where many of those pieces might fit in the future.

Grade: Above average

Best rookie: Apologies to linebacker Fred Warner, who was consistent and productive from Week 1, but offensive tackle Mike McGlinchey stepped in and did exactly what the Niners hoped after they drafted him at No. 9 overall in April. McGlinchey was often dominant in the run game and improved as a pass-protector. There's often nothing particularly exciting about taking a tackle in the first round, but McGlinchey was as good as any rookie offensive lineman in 2018 and offered plenty of hope that he'll be able to step in at left tackle without much issue when Joe Staley decides to retire.

Most improved rookie: Wide receiver Dante Pettis, the team's second-round pick, started slowly, largely because of an injury suffered in Week 4 against the Los Angeles Chargers, but he finished with a flourish once he got healthy. In fact, his emergence down the stretch might have been one of the biggest developments for the Niners' future. With so many needs at other positions, particularly on defense, receiver doesn't look quite as pressing as it once did. That isn't to say Pettis has fully arrived or that the 49ers should ignore that spot, but Pettis did enough to be a factor in the offensive plans in 2019 and beyond.

Jury is still out on ...: The Niners drafted cornerback Tarvarius Moore in the third round because they had a lot of belief in what he could be rather than what he was. A fast, athletic safety in college, Moore made the transition to cornerback in San Francisco, and it took some time for him to get on the field aside from working on special teams. Injuries created opportunity for Moore late in the season. He had some ups and downs, but the sample wasn't big enough to make any judgment on where he fits just yet. If Moore can develop into a solid starter, it will be a boon for the Niners' defense.

Undrafted rookie evaluation: For the second straight year, the 49ers seemed to uncover a talented running back in the undrafted crop, this time with Jeff Wilson Jr. Wilson will need to eliminate some fumbling issues, but he flashed a physical style that could earn him a role moving forward. ... Quarterback Nick Mullens wasn't technically part of this rookie class, but he was undrafted in 2017 and got his first NFL game action this season. He made the most of it and staked a strong claim to the No. 2 quarterback job behind Jimmy Garoppolo.