At about this point last year, roster projections started rolling out, and if I recall correctly (this writer is a lazy one and refuses to look such things up), a good portion (read: all) of them had Bear Pascoe making the final 53-man roster as the third string and blocking tight end. It wasn't reported that he was bad at it, but he was "coming along slowly." Later, reports came out saying that the coaches thought he played (blocked) "soft".
So this season they went and drafted the complete opposite of that. Don't get me wrong, I was big on Bear, and I scratched my head for a long while on the Byham pick, but he is exactly what the team wants in a blocking tight end... if they keep one. I rationalize that, if you're going to keep a player who basically is there for one reason in the great scheme of things, shouldn't that player meet every criteria you have to play that particular position? They want a guy who can do it, who want's to do it, and doesn't mind getting dirty doing it. Billy Bajema was missing something--does Byham have it?
One of the hardest things to do with roster projections is to consider the players who are no longer battling with players at their position. Nate Byham is not battling with Tony Curtis or J.J. Finley, at least as I see it. Curtis reportedly has been working on his blocking (no source, again, sue me) but they're both better pass-catchers, it seems. Finish after the jump.
What I'm getting at is that Byham will have to outplay another player of another position to make the roster. I wonder if he can do it? When I write up a roster projection, it's very easy to just list Vernon Davis, Delanie Walker and move on. But when I really think about it, when I consider that this team will definitely be running, and they will definitely have plays where an extra blocker is needed, wouldn't Byham benefit more than not? It's all well and good to bring up an extra offensive lineman to block, but that lineman poses no threat of anything else. Byham, at least, seems to have decent hands and has appeared to be a good blocker, something that will be tested to its full in training camp.
Many teams in the league keep a blocking tight end, and many of them have long careers in the NFL, always having a roster spot, relatively unknown, sometimes staying on a roster for 10 years, other times doing spot-blocking on 15 different teams in the same span, but they are definitely still kept around.
His competition is someone like Brit Miller, because Byham has been noted as someone who could also play the backup fullback position. He'll have to show that he brings more to the team than Brit, which will be hard to do as Miller is quickly becoming someone the coaches are excited about. He'll also have competition with backup cornerbacks, safeties, defensive lineman, linebackers, offensive lineman, wide receivers and more. It will be a daunting task. Let's not proceed as if his only competition is Miller, however (I foresee every post being 'Miller > Byham' and missing the entire point).
So when you think about it, and I mean really think about it, does Byham have a spot on the 49ers 2010 roster? Not necessarily will he make it, but does he has a place here? Can he bring more than say, the sixth wide receiver? The blocking is certainly valued... just thought I'd get some discussion on the guy.