Here at Niners Nation, we're presenting a series called "90-in-90". We'll be looking at every player on the 49ers offseason roster, one player per post, from now until the start of training camp.
The 49ers starting offensive line is set for the 2013 season, leaving the primary position competition taking place in the backup roles. Heading into training camp, the 49ers have a mix of talent competing for roster spots. Daniel Kilgore and Joe Looney are close to locks to make the roster. If the 49ers carry offensive linemen into the season, like they did last season, that would leave one roster spot open. In Coach Harbaugh's first season, the 49ers broke camp with nine offensive linemen. They carried ten in 2010 and nine in 2009.
After Kilgore and Looney, the offensive line competition will include Adam Snyder, Kenny Wiggins, Carter Bykowski, and Al Netter, among several others. Luke Marquardt seems to have a good chance at spending time on the Non-Football Injury list, so I don't include him. Other guys are fairly long shots to make the roster, and at best are competing for a practice squad spot.
Al Netter is likely closer to the latter group competing for a practice squad spot, but a year under his belt with the 49ers does give him some advantage over that group. The 49ers signed Netter as an undrafted free agent last season, and he spent the entire 2012 campaign on the practice squad. Bob Padecky of the Press Democrat had a solid article detailing Netter's life on the practice squad. It's a helpful read.
Here's some quick background on Netter from shortly after the 49ers drafted him (via 49ers PR department):
Tied the Northwestern record for consecutive starts (52). In 2011, started all 13 games for the fourth consecutive season and was named co-captain for the second straight season. Was also named consensus honorable mention All-Big Ten and was an Academic All-Big 10 honoree as well as being named Northwestern's Big Ten Sportsmanship Award nominee. In 2010, started all 13 games at left tackle and was named co-captain along with being named Third-Team All-Big Ten as well as an Academic All-Big Ten honoree. Started 13 games at left tackle in both 2009 and 2008, earning honorable mention All-Big Ten, in 2009. Attended Cardinal Newman (CA) HS, where he was named First-Team All-North Coast Section and Second-Team San Francisco Chronicle All-Metro team honoree. Majored in economics. Born on 7/21/89 in Rohnert Park, CA.
I did some digging for scouting reports on Netter, and came across a few things. Draft Insider put their thoughts together, and this link has some scouting reports heading into what was Netter's senior season at Northwestern. Here is what Draft Insider had to say about him:
Positive: Hardworking college tackle who projects to guard in the NFL. Strong at the point, blocks with good lean and turns defenders off the line. Sets with a wide base, quickly gets into blocks and controls defenders at the point of attack. Keeps his head on a swivel and always looking for someone to hit. Stays square and jolts opponents with good hand punch.
Negative: Lacks footwork in space. Must improve his blocking balance. Has limited range sliding out off the edge. Average skills blocking in motion.
Analysis: Netter is a hardworking lineman who uses all of his assets to their maximum. He's a small-area blocker that could be used as a reserve in a power running offense.
This report jives with the other reports from prior to his senior year, describing a lineman who is best suited moving inside to the guard position.
What to expect in 2013
I'd be surprised if he made the roster, but if he continues his hard work, the practice squad seems a likely destination. If the 49ers kept nine offensive linemen, he'd have an outside shot, in which case he would likely spend much of the season inactive. If he was active, he would be expected to help on special teams, and then likely as that second extra blocker in the serious jumbo packages.
Odds of making the roster
His odds are slim, particularly as an interior lineman. If the 49ers keep nine offensive linemen, I see Adam Snyder and Kenny Wiggins as the two leading candidates, with Carter Bykowski as another option. Daniel Kilgore and Joe Looney are the primary interior backups, and Snyder can play all along the line. It seems like the ninth lineman would be someone who can handle the tackle roles. That leaves Netter in a tough situation. He still has practice squad eligibility, so that seems a more logical landing place.