As is usually the case the frenzy to sign players who weren't drafted has begun. In fact the 49ers are saying publicly that their training-camp roster is nearly filled already. It was a roster that boasts good depth returning from last season and it was going to be hard for even some of the late round draft-picks to make it...so what kind of chances do the UDFA's have?
I won't pretend to know a ton about every player on the list right now. I do have some thoughts though and have been thinking about roster projections while I should be sleeping (at 2AM last night, for instance). Although UDFA's seem like they have zero shot at making a talented roster...there are always guys who have a great camp and actually look better than some of the existing depth.
There is one guy in particular that I know a little bit about, being an Iowa Hawkeyes fan.
"Who did we get from Iowa?" you might be saying.
The guy's name is Jewel Hampton and while he didn't finish his college career at Iowa, he did spend some time there and had a heck of a freshman year backing up "the back", Shonn Greene.
More on Hampton after the jump.
In 2008 Shonn Greene was the Doak Walker award winner; an honor bestowed on the nation's top running back. Hampton, a true freshman, was the backup to Greene, but he put up a pretty impressive season himself rushing for 463 yards and seven touchdowns.
He was penciled-in as the replacement for Greene in 2009 before he suffered a torn ACL in summer workouts. The following season he rushed for 114 yards before tearing his other ACL. Disappointed and ready for a change (something that he still hasn't fully explained publicly), he transferred to Southern Illinois.
While SIU is a Football Championship Subdivision school, Hampton rushed for 1,121 yards and 17 touchdowns as a red-shirt Junior. He had another year of eligibility but he chose to forgo his final season and enter the NFL "sweepstakes."
When asked if the injuries have changed his running style Hampton said this:
People say I run angry. People have said I resemble my running style [to] (Baltimore running back) Ray Rice. After watching Ray Rice play, I would say that I [do] resemble Ray Rice.
He also went on to say that people often tell him he seem to "run angry". He recently weighed-in at 5'8" 218lbs. Obviously Iowa is very much an NFL style offense that starts with the run-game...so it's not hard to imagine a guy with Hampton's size, background, and disappointments being described as an angry runner.
I realize that Hampton hasn't proven anything and that a guy like Brandon Jacobs brings post-season (including Super Bowl) experience...however I still feel like Jacobs hasn't been a hard runner of late and I wouldn't be upset if he doesn't make the roster.
Frank Gore, Kendall Hunter and LaMichael James are virtual roster locks due to past production and draft-slot. Still, if the 49ers were to keep four RB's plus Cartwright, something Jim Harbaugh mentioned as a possibility, I wouldn't be upset in the least if Hampton was the fourth.
Only time will tell, and it's probably a long-shot...but he has something to prove and I'm rooting for him to surprise us all.
Here are some links that have brief clips of Hampton on the field: