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NFL San Francisco 49ers

San Francisco 49ers’ 5 Biggest Breakout Candidates of 2014

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San Francisco 49ers' 5 Biggest Breakout Candidates of 2014

Quinton Patton
Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

The San Francisco 49ers have fallen just short of their goal, a sixth Super Bowl championship, in each of of the past three seasons. To finally capture the Lombardi Trophy this coming season, several players will be relied upon for drastic improvement in 2014. Here are the 49ers' top five breakout candidates.

5. Marcus Lattimore, RB

Marcus Lattimore
Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports

5. Marcus Lattimore, RB

BeFunky_USATSI_7189490_149008644_lowres.jpg
Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports

The 49ers selected a project at running back during the draft's fourth round last April in hopes of nabbing Frank Gore's eventual successor. Lattimore had the talent of a first-round pick, but two horrendous knee injuries plummeted his stock. He's on track to be ready for training camp in 2014, when he'll attempt to earn carries in a crowded backfield by showcasing the power, balance and vision he routinely put on display at South Carolina.

4. Quinton Patton, WR

Quinton Patton
Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

4. Quinton Patton, WR

Quinton Patton
Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

After impressing down the stretch of his rookie season, Quinton Patton will have an opportunity to cement himself as the 49ers' No. 3 receiver as a sophomore. Patton is a well-rounded pass catcher who has starting potential down the road, but will strive to be a productive complement to Anquan Boldin and Michael Crabtree in 2014.

3. Tank Carradine, DE

Tank Carradine
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

3. Tank Carradine, DE

Tank Carradine
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Like with Lattimore, 2013 was a redshirt season of sorts for the 40th overall pick of last April's draft, Tank Carradine. The former Florida State star had top-10 potential before tearing his ACL in November 2012. If fully recovered, Carradine could bolster an already stacked front seven with an impressive combination of strength and athleticism as an edge rusher.

2. Ian Williams, NT

Ian Williams
Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

2. Ian Williams, NT

Ian Williams
Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Former Notre Dame defensive lineman Ian Williams had been an ascending player for the 49ers for three seasons before suffering a broken ankle in Week 2 last September. Williams projects as the run-stuffing anchor of San Francisco's three-man front if he can return to training camp at 100 percent.

1. Michael Wilhoite, ILB

Michael Wilhoite
Ed Szczepanski-USA TODAY Sports

1. Michael Wilhoite, ILB

Michael Wilhoite
Ed Szczepanski-USA TODAY Sports

Inside linebacker Michael Wilhoite played well while filing in for an injured Patrick Willis in Week 4 and 5 in 2013. He'll need to do the same for Navorro Bowman, who suffered a gruesome knee injury in the NFC title game early on in 2014. Wilhoite has been a special teams standout for the 49ers during his first two seasons, and will need to carry that success to the club's linebacker corps.