49ers Roster, 90-in-90 breakdowns: Darius Fleming

Thearon W. Henderson

Breaking down the 90 players on the 49ers offseason roster in 90 posts (over 90 or so days). Today we focus on Darius Fleming.

Here at Niners Nation, we're presenting a series called "90-in-90". We'll be looking at every player on the San Francisco 49ers offseason roster, one player per post, from now until the start of training camp.

Earlier today, the 49ers announced several roster moves for injured players, and one player included was linebacker Darius Fleming. The 49ers placed Fleming on the Active/Physically Unable to Perform List as he is dealing with some kind of left knee issue. This comes a year after he tore the ACL in that knee, so any tweaks provide some for concern.

The 49ers selected Darius Fleming in the fifth round of the 2012 NFL Draft, listing him initially as an outside linebacker. He tore the ACL in 2011 OTAs, opened training camp on the Active/PUP list and was out for the season. We do not yet know the extent of his current knee injury. Obviously we hope it's not bad because another lost year would set him back considerably.

The 49ers initially looked at Fleming as an outside linebacker. This offseason, the team moved him inside to compete behind Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman. After the draft there was discussion about developing his pass rush skills, but this SI.com scouting report was apparently a bit closer to the truth, describing him as best as either a strong-side linebacker or inside in the 3-4.

What to expect in 2013

If Fleming is able to get healthy, he would be competing in a fairly wide open competition for inside linebacker depth work. The 49ers have not re-signed Larry Grant, which leaves Fleming competing with Michael Wilhoite, Nick Moody and Nate Stupar. Wilhoite has been a special teams standout, while the 49ers likely drafted Moody for his ability to also contribute on special teams. Thus, Fleming is going to need to show something on special teams if he is going to earn a roster spot this year.

If he does make the roster, Fleming would spend most of his time on special teams or inactive given that Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman are kind of good at what they do.

Odds of making the roster

Fleming faces fairly stiff competition in Wilhoite, Moody and Stupar. He needs to get off the Active/PUP list sooner rather than later if he wants to have a reasonable shot at earning a roster spot. Of course, if he stays on Active/PUP for a chunk of training camp, and then only ends up with a limited number of snaps in practice and preseason action, he could very well end up on the practice squad.

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