SI.com's Peter King and Pro Football Focus founder Neil Hornsby were in attendance at 49ers practice yesterday, which gives us a chance to hear from outsiders about what they had a chance to see. A single viewing of practice is not the gospel truth, but it provides one more take on things. King has not posted anything yet on his visit, but PFF put together a recap of their day in Santa Clara.
PFF broke down some of the key topics from practice, leading off with some discussion about the 49ers use of unconventional players for an extended period. We've known for a while that Demarcus Dobbs and Will Tukuafu were two guys getting a lot of practice time on the offensive side of the ball (TE and FB respectively). The 49ers have also mixed in linebacker Michael Wilhoite at fullback.
The 49ers showed how willing they were to go unconventional last season, and I suspect we'll see plenty more of it this season. Who knows if it means Joe Staley and Isaac Sopoaga will get some more passes their way, but Demarcus Dobbs could find himself developing into a very real option as the third tight end. He is getting a chance to catch some passes in practice, while also working on his blocking. He's an athletic young player, so even with his size, making that conversion is not the craziest idea in the world.
It makes 53-man roster projections all the more interesting. I still think Nate Byham gets that third tight end spot, but my certainty of that decreases the more Dobbs works at tight end. If that's the case, suddenly the door is open for an additional player elsewhere along the roster. My last 53-man projection was in mid-June, so I think it's about time I start working on another one that reflects the potential of Dobbs being the third tight end.