SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- Fully aware that Jim Harbaugh didn't see eye-to-eye with Trent Baalke, new coach Chip Kelly is doing his best to start off on a good note with his general manager.
While Kelly has cautioned not to read too much into who is playing alongside who during the 49ers' organized team activities (OTAs), he clearly is giving some of Baalke's more highly regarded draft picks from recent years an inside track at lining up with the big boys.
Defensive ends Tank Carradine and Arik Armstead, outside linebacker Eli Harold and safety Jimmie Ward have been given a chance to shine during Kelly's initial evaluation process at the OTAs.
Carradine, the club's second-round pick in 2013 out of Florida State, sat out one season with an ACL tear suffered in college before suffering through two lackluster campaigns during which he totaled 39 tackles, including four sacks, in 23 games. He was deemed good enough to earn just one start.
Kelly has indicated he would like to get Carradine back into the quarterback-pressuring mode that made him a standout in college. So he is being given a shot to play outside linebacker in the club's 3-4 alignment this off-season.
"He's a very versatile player," 49ers new defensive coordinator Jim O'Neil said before Wednesday's workout. "I see him on early downs ... helping us out some at outside backer. And then when we get into later downs or sub situations, he's a guy that can play on the edge or he can slide inside and provide some interior rush for us.
"He's learning it all right now."
Armstead has only played one season, but already he appears headed down Carradine's path.
The club's first-round pick in 2015 out of Oregon wasn't much of a factor as a rookie, logging two sacks and 19 tackles overall in 16 games. He made one start.
The 49ers are hoping the addition of 2016 first-round selection DeForest Buckner in April will help rejuvenate Armstead. The defensive ends were terrors on Pacific-12 Conference quarterbacks as Oregon teammates two seasons ago, and Kelly has been giving them a look as bookends along the 49ers' defensive line.
"I think he's really, really comfortable," O'Neil observed. "He's shown that he can be a difference-maker in the run game and the pass game. So I'm excited about him."
The former coaching staff raved about the potential of 2014 fifth-round pick Aaron Lynch as an outside linebacker, but Kelly is giving Harold, last year's third-round pick out of Virginia, a chance to wrestle that position away.
Harold has bulked up from 245 to 270 pounds since the end of last season in an effort to become a better run stopper. Kelly at times has been lining up Harold in tandem with Carradine, which would be a change from last year's look that regularly paired Lynch with veteran Ahmad Brooks.
Harold got into all 16 games last season but totaled just 14 tackles.
Ward, meanwhile, was a curious choice as the club's top pick in 2014 in that the club already employed a standout tandem of safeties in Antoine Bethea and Eric Reid, the club's first-round pick the previous season.
Not surprisingly, Ward has had a hard time cracking the defensive lineup in his two seasons, used mainly in nickel packages to cover slot receivers.
But Kelly has lined up Ward as the right cornerback with the first unit during the OTAs. The competition runs deep at the corner positions, with Tramaine Brock, Kenneth Acker, Keith Reaser, Dontae Johnson and 2016 third-round pick Will Redmond also in the mix.
"We don't know what Jimmie is going to be right now. I know he's one of our best 11. That I do know," O'Neil gushed. "We're trying to find ways to get our best 11 on the field. He's a guy I know we have to get on the field."