Over the past two years, Jim Harbaugh has shown a penchant for two-way players, and really any players that can provide a little versatility to the team. The team is allowed a 53-man roster, but the more pertinent roster is the 46-man active game day roster. 46 players may seem like a lot, but needs quickly add up.
Two rookie additions that will get a chance to show off some versatility are B.J. Daniels and MarQueis Gray. Daniels was a quarterback at South Florida, while Gray played quarterback and some wide receiver at Minnesota. Daniels has gotten some work at quarterback with the 49ers, but he is also getting a lot of special teams work, particularly as a punt and kick returner. Gray is not practicing as a quarterback, but rather is working in an H-back role, which means he moves all around the field, including as a tight end and running back in the backfield.
Considering Daniels was a seventh round pick and Gray was an undrafted free agent, both face an uphill battle to earn a roster spot. They are getting a chance to show they have some versatility, but they need to show solid skills with that versatility for it to matter.
Daniels probably has the better opportunity of the two. The backup quarterback situation is relatively unsettled, but more importantly, one could argue that the punt returner position is unsettled as well. BASG put together a rundown of the punt return candidates, and while Kyle Williams is likely the favorite, his ACL creates for a potentially sticky situation. LaMichael James struggled returning punts last preseason, but I'm sure he will get plenty of opportunities to return punts this preseason.
If Daniels can prove solid as a punt returner, that alone probably will not be enough to secure a roster spot. If he can also show some modicum of skill as a scrambling quarterback, maybe that could be enough? I still think he ends up on the practice squad, but he is in a position to prove he belongs.
Gray is in a tougher situation because of the 49ers depth at tight end. After Vernon Davis, the 49ers added Vance McDonald in the second round. It's safe to say they have a plan for him. Garrett Celek was solid enough last year and will get every opportunity to earn that third tight end role, and Cameron Morrah should provide solid competition. This entire group (including Gray) could all potentially do different things for the team, but there's only so much room on the roster.
Will versatility do the trick for either rookie?