Seventh-round pick Richie James flashes toughness in first 49ers practice


SANTA CLARA -- Richie James lined up in the slot, and immediately found himself fighting through a jam at the snap of the ball. Cornerback Emmanuel Moseley got his hand under the back of James' helmet and the two men became tangled.

James’ helmet popped off, and as James stumbled out of his in-breaking cut, Moseley tumbled to the ground. The pass was already in the air and a helmet-less James quickly adjusted to snatch the ball out of the air in the one-on-one drill.

This is James, a seventh-round draft pick. He is tough. And he plays with determination and attitude. He said growing up in Sarasota, Florida, instilled that competitiveness within him.

“I grew up in that environment,” James said. “You got to have attitude to get out of there.

“It’s rough. I grew up in the streets of Sarasota. There’s a lot of trouble around the area. A lot of crime. But you got to make your way out. That’s why I’m here.”

James, who patterns his style after Pittsburgh’s Antonio Brown, set records at Middle Tennessee State with 243 catches for 3,249 yards and 23 touchdowns. He sustained two broken collarbones. The second injury cut his junior season short. He turned pro instead of returning for his senior year.

The 49ers selected wide receiver Dante Pettis in the second round of the draft. In the seventh round, James was still available with the No. 240 overall selection.

“I’m surprised I went that late,” James said. “But at the same time, I understand that’s part of it. I got injured last year and, honestly, there were a lot of red flags and teams didn’t want to take a chance.”

James made a strong first impression during the first day of the 49ers’ rookie minicamp Friday. He was the most active of all the team’s receivers, catching three passes during 7-on-7 drills and another in the team sessions.

“This is a guy who we're really fond of as a staff,” 49ers general manager John Lynch said after the 49ers selected him. “Just a fearless player and has a lot of will that shows up on tape. (He) has a little swagger to him.”

The 49ers on Saturday morning announced their first wave of draft pick signings. Each signed the mandatory four-year deals required for players who were drafted.

The 49ers signed third-round pick Tarvarius Moore, seventh-rounder Jullian Taylor and seventh-rounder James to contracts.

According to, Moore's spot in the draft dictates he will receive approxiately $3.05 million over four years with $588,000 to sign. Taylor's deal is worth $2.5 million with $73,500 to sign. And James is scheduled to receive $2.5 million over the life of his four-year deal with a signing bonus of approximately $57,000.

First-round draft pick Mike McGlinchey’s first repetition in a one-one-one pass-rush drill could not have gone much worse. Lined up against Nevada defensive end Patrick Choudja, a tryout player, McGlinchey was beaten badly off the snap with an inside move.

After his opening slip-up, McGlinchey looked good in his pass-rush sets and run blocks during the 11-on-11 drills. McGlinchey handled defensive lineman Jullian Taylor, a seventh-round pick from Temple, and Ben Sorensen, a tryout player from Sacramento State, in subsequent drills.

Defensive back D.J. Reed, a fifth-round pick from Kansas State, is an intriguing prospect who does not fit the prototypical mold of cornerbacks in the 49ers’ system.

He stands just 5-foot-9. But he has unique measurements that help him compensate for his lack of height. He has 10-inch hands and a 31 5/8-inch arm length. He played cornerback in college and ranked No. 2 in the nation in punt and kickoff returns.

Reed is playing free safety and nickel back, as well as returning kicks, during the 49ers’ minicamp.

“I definitely have opportunities to do something great,” he said. “I just have to learn what I’m doing, so I can play fast.”

It has been a crazy week for Southern Arkansas cornerback Darren Crawford. On Wednesday, he got a call from the 49ers. The next day he was on a flight to the Bay Area to participate in the minicamp as a tryout player.

What? You’ve never heard of Crawford? Perhaps, you’re familiar with the father of his mom. Hall of Fame pass-rusher Fred Dean is Crawford's grandfather. Dean’s arrival in a trade with the Chargers early in the 1981 season is widely credited with providing the 49ers with the missing piece en route to the franchise’s first Super Bowl title.

Crawford was a middle-schooler and went to the induction ceremony in Canton, Ohio, in 2008, when his grandfather was enshrined into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He said he hears stories about his grandfather all the time.

“Your papa was a mean dude.”

“Your papa was very aggressive.”

Said Crawford, “Man, I heard a million stories, a million stories...Him telling me how he used to poke people’s eyeballs out, there’s just so many things.”

Third-round draft pick Tarvarius Moore had a flight that was late-arriving in the Bay Area, so he was held out of Friday’s workout.

He faces the additional challenge of learning a new position. He was a safety at Southern Mississippi. Now, he is learning how to play cornerback. He looks forward to learning as much as he can from veteran Richard Sherman.

“I want to know just how he sees the game,” Moore said. “He’s an intelligent player. Everybody knows that – definitely one of the greats. He sees the game different than a lot of people. Just to get that perspective how he sees the game, and maybe that helps me out.”

The 49ers did not add a running back in the draft, but that does not mean there is not a newcomer who will be in serious competion for a roster spot.

The 49ers signed North Texas running back Jeff Wilson (6-0, 194) after the draft. He averaged 6.5 yards and scored 16 touchdowns in his final collegiate season. Wilson had a nice first practice, catching passes in both 7-on-7 and team drills.

It will be difficult for any running back, however, to crack the 49ers’ top three. Jerick McKinnon was targeted in free agency as an upgrade over Carlos Hyde for Kyle Shanahan’s scheme. Matt Breida appears set as the No. 2.

Raheem Mostert is a favorite for the third running back spot based on his ability on special teams. Mostert ranked among the top special-teams players in the league last season until he sustained knee injury that did not require surgery.

Joe Williams, a fourth-round draft pick last season, was less-than impressive before he was placed on season-ending injured reserve at the start of the season with a foot injury. He might be the most physically talented of all the running backs but he must play with greater urgency, Shanahan said this offseason that Jeremy McNichols, who spent last season with the club, is also competing for a spot.

The 49ers also have two rookie tryout players who are trying to open eyes this weekend. Ja’Quan Gardner of Humboldt State is undersized (5-7, 205) but showed good balance and ability to make tacklers miss. Stacy Bedell (5-9, 195) of Stony Brook exhibited good burst through the hole and downhill speed.

Quarterback Nick Mullens, who spent all of last season on the 49ers' practice squad, joined the rookie minicamp and is getting plenty of work. Mullens and Jack Heneghan of Dartmouth are the only quarterbacks participating in the workouts.

Heneghan, the son of former 49ers high-ranking team executive Lal Heneghan, opened the eyes of the 49ers at the team's local pro day at Levi's Stadium before the draft. He was signed as an undrafted rookie. He started the past two seasons under former Stanford head coach Buddy Teevens. Heneghan completed 437 of 717 pass attempts (60.9) in his college career with 4,900 yards with 28 touchdowns and 20 interceptions.

On Friday, Heneghan completed all four of his attempts during team drills with tryout receiver Frank Stephens (Northern Colorado) catching two. Fullback Connor Wentz (North Dakota State) and Gardner caught the other two. Wentz is the cousin of Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz.

Mullens completed three of his four attempts in 11-on-11 drills, with receptions coming from James, Wilson and Steven Dunbar (Houston). 

All NFL rookies this season are allowed to join their teams' offseason workout programs without any restrictions. In the past, only players who had already graduated or whose schools had completed its spring term were allowed to report full-time for work. Now, the NFL mandates that players must be given adequate time to complete coursework during the offseason program and teams must also cover travel expenses asscociated with any finals that must be taken.

--The 49ers' rookie practice on Saturday is closed to the media.

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