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 wrapped up their mandatory minicamp on Thursday, and while the veterans can now depart far and wide across the country, the rookies will be in town for another week getting more instruction. Coach Harbaugh is leaving town for an annual trip with his church down to Peru, leaving the positions coaches and coordinators to work with the rookies.
Given the close of minicamp, it seemed fitting to take a look at rookie B.J. Daniels next in our 90-in-90 series. I refer to him as "rookie" B.J. Daniels and not by his position because he is learning multiple positions at this point. He was a quarterback at South Florida, and is listed as such with the 49ers. However, he has also spent time at running back and punt returner. Ted Ginn Jr. and Kyle Williams handled punt return duties at different times last year, while LaMichael James was the kick returner by the close of the season. Ginn departed and we have to wait and see on Williams' recovery from ACL surgery (positive indications thus far), leaving the punt return spot as a bit of a question mark.
Daniels received a decent amount of praise throughout the recently completed minicamp. The most notable was after day one when he apparently put a great move on Patrick Willis that left the All-Pro linebacker on the ground. He also has thrown and caught multiple touchdowns. Things like this mean only so much in minicamp, but will help build up the "KSWOF" type of legend around him as we head into training camp.
Scouting reports surrounding Daniels have focused primarily on his work as a quarterback. He was very athletic at the college level, so we'll see how that translates to the NFL. Daniels was a dual threat QB at South Florida, throwing for 52 touchdowns and rushing for 2,068 yards and 25 touchdowns over the course of his career. He stands 5'10, 222 pounds and ran a 4.63-second 40 at his pro day.
What to expect in 2013
It will be tough enough just making the 49ers roster. If Daniels makes the roster, I have to think it would be more about what he has done as a running back and returner. The 49ers have their mobile quarterback in Colin Kaepernick, and backup QB Colt McCoy is no slouch when it comes to running. I'm sure the 49ers would throw out the occasional play for Daniels, to keep defenses on their heels, but what value is there in taking Colin Kaepernick off the field on offense?
When Alex Smith was starting, Kaepernick brought a different element to the table with his legs. Alex could scramble, but Kaepernick was a more dangerous read option threat. Daniels does not have that advantage over Kaepernick, and I'm fairly certain I would throw something at the TV if the 49ers took a healthy Kap off the field, or rolled him out at wide receiver. I suppose it could keep defenses on their heels, but I just don't see the return being worth what you give up by running that kind of play.
In reality, I see Daniels as a guy who could provide a scout team look to prep them for read option quarterbacks. Kap can show that as well, but when the defense is working with the scout team, we won't see Kap running that offense. The 49ers face Robert Griffin III, Cam Newton, a mildly mobile Josh Freeman (assuming he doesn't lose his job to Mike Glennon), and of course, two games against Russell Wilson. That's not to say the 49ers drafted Daniels strictly to mirror Russell Wilson, but I think it factored into the decision to a certain extent.
Odds of making the roster
This is a tough one. It sounds like Colt McCoy is pretty set as the No. 2 QB behind Kap, leaving Daniels to battle Scott Tolzien for the No. 3 spot. The reports have been more positive with Daniels, but until we see him on the field in padded, contact action, it's hard to truly assess where he is at. In terms of making the roster, it seems like at worst the 49ers would attempt to put him on the practice squad. But again, even that is hard to say in non-padded practices.
The 49ers have hung on to Tolzien for two years now (well, claimed him in 2011, held on to him in 2012). They would seem to like something about him. On the other hand, Daniels would be able to provide tremendous versatility as the third quarterback in a sort of "Slash" role, made popular by Kordell Stewart back in the day. Of course, being a jack-of-all-trades only helps if you are somewhat good at some of those trades. Daniels is a guy that we don't quite know, which makes him one of the most intriguing players on the roster to keep an eye on when the preseason rolls around. We can only put so much weight into preseason performances, but when a guy is trying various new positions, it's going to be worth tracking each week.
If I had to make a prediction, I think Daniels ends up on the practice squad. Naturally I reserve the right to change that after a monster first preseason game.