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SANTA CLARA — It’s parade season in basketball, and the meat of the schedule in baseball. Football, meanwhile, has reached a strange false summit. The Raiders and 49ers both began three-day minicamps on Tuesday, the final burst of activity before the dead zone that precedes training camp.

It was hot at the Niners’ practice fields, across the street from Levi’s Stadium, but the pace seemed good, the mood upbeat.

Much of the attention, of course, followed Jimmy Garoppolo, the charismatic quarterback who has yet to lose — and certainly never will lose — an NFL game. Playing a supporting role was veteran cornerback Richard Sherman, who has immediately emerged as a team leader. Sherman addressed reporters in the media workroom, then managed to break the mic stand on his way out; he was forced to hold it upright for a moment as secondary-mates Jaquiski Tartt and K’Waun Williams followed him to the lectern.

The marquee in Santa Clara right now would also include names like defensive lineman DeForest Buckner, offensive tackle Joe Staley, wide receiver Pierre Garcon and linebacker Reuben Foster, who returned to practice following the twists and turns of his recent legal brouhaha. They are likely to form the core of this team, which finished the 2017 season with five consecutive wins and believes it is poised to make a playoff run this year.

But those bona fide playmakers can wait till August. Right now, in the heat of early summer, I’m more interested in the last chancers — guys who will either take a step up or a step out the door in 2018. Specifically, I’m interested in Joe Williams and Joshua Garnett. The 49ers traded up to get both of them. Neither has justified the transaction.

Garnett was the last first-round draft choice made by former general manager Trent Baalke, who traded a package of lesser picks to Kansas City for the opportunity to get the big guard in 2016. A lot of draft analysts considered it a reach, but Garnett came with solid credentials. He won the Outland Trophy as a Stanford senior, and was a unanimous All-American.

The 49ers thrust Garnett into the starting lineup as a 2016 rookie, and he generally appeared overwhelmed. The scouting service Pro Football Focus gave him an overall grade of 42.4, which ranked 70th among 72 qualifying guards that year. His PFF pass-blocking efficiency rating, 93.2, was dead last among the 61 guards who played enough to qualify.

A year ago, Garnett injured his knee in training camp. Reports said he could have made it back onto the field fairly soon. But he was overweight and unproductive, and the 49ers decided to place him on their injured reserve for the season.

First-round draft picks tend to get plenty of chances in the NFL. But remember, Garnett was somebody else’s pick, not current GM John Lynch’s. The 49ers traded for one veteran guard, Laken Tomlinson, last year, and another, Jonathan Cooper, in March. They also re-signed Mike Person, an NFL journeyman whom they originally drafted in 2011.

So Garnett has plenty of competition. Maybe too much competition. With Cooper currently rehabbing a knee injury, it was Person who started Tuesday’s team period at right guard, though Garnett did get first-team reps of his own.

Before practice, Shanahan had sounded optimistic about the Stanford grad.

“As I told you guys, he took care of his body in the time away,” the coach said. “He took advantage of the year he had off to take care of his knee, but also to get in the best shape possible. Where he is right now is much further ahead to where he was last year in OTAs when I met him. He’s in better shape, he runs better, he’s stronger, he’s lighter and he is giving himself a chance to compete now.”

The same might be said of Williams, the running back who joined the 49ers as a fourth-round draft pick last year but has yet to play in an NFL game.

If he can’t show notable improvement, he may be one-and-done. Lynch admitted that he had originally stricken Williams’ name from the team’s draft board, turned off by his lack of dependability in college. Williams had been kicked off the team at Connecticut, and had quit before his senior year at Utah — only to return a month into the season and launch a dominant campaign.

It’s easy to see why Lynch had red-flagged Williams, and why Shanahan would covet him. The kid ran for 332 yards in a 2016 game against UCLA. And he led the 49ers with 130 rushing yards and a 6.2-yard average last preseason.

But the Niners weren’t thrilled with his study habits or his pass protection. The final straw came in the last 2017 preseason game, when Williams fumbled in the red zone against the Chargers.

“Joe’s an extremely explosive back,” Shanahan said Tuesday. “Look at his yards per carry in the preseason last year. I don’t think it was a surprise that he was close to seven and had more than most of the guys. When it is blocked right, he’s got the size and the burst to get through there as fast as anyone. But it’s just about doing it day in and day out, and protecting the football, what do you do when the run doesn’t look good, what do you do without the ball in your hands and just everything. Being the same guy every day.”

Williams hurt his ankle in that Chargers game. It wasn’t considered serious, but he had been outplayed by another rookie, Matt Breida. He joined Garnett on the 49ers’ IR. It was essentially an NFL redshirt year for Williams.

All in all, it was a pretty dubious professional debut for the halfback. But Shanahan sounded a hopeful note when I asked him about Williams on Monday.

“Joe’s come a long way,” the coach said. “I think his body looks a lot better than it did last year. He’s put on a lot of muscle mass, just how he’s worked and taken advantage of the year not playing. I think he has just a different mindset, understands a little bit more of the standard of the NFL, and the difference. Sometimes it takes guys time. It’s not always malicious and they’re not trying, it just takes time to understand it and what you have to do day in and day out.”

The opportunities are few when you’re a player on the fringe, though. The most notable play involving Williams on Tuesday came when linebacker Mark Nzeocha, another guy struggling to make the roster, jumped a short pass from third-string quarterback Nick Mullens and hit Williams just after he caught the ball.

Williams fumbled. The struggle continues.

You can reach columnist Phil Barber at 707-521-5263 or phil.barber@pressdemocrat.com. Follow him on Twitter: @Skinny_Post.

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