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49ers Roster, 90-in-90 breakdowns: Mike Purcell

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


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.

The San Francisco 49ers spent the offseason re-tooling their defensive line depth, and one guy hanging further down the depth chart is defensive lineman Mike Purcell. The 49ers signed him out of Wyoming as an all conference defensive lineman. He stands 6'3, 305 pounds and made 36 starts in 42 appearances during his college career. He earned first team All-MWC as a senior.

One thing we'll need to figure out with Purcell is what position he'll work at during training camp. He played as an interior defensive lineman in the Cowboys' four-man front. The 49ers have him listed as a nose tackle, while Matt Barrows pre-training camp depth chart lists him as a defensive end. I've bee poking around scouting reports, and most seem to view him as a 3-technique defensive tackle, but one who is undersized for that role at the NFL level.

Of course, for the 49ers 3-4, aside from the nose tackle, huge size (relative to NFL standards) is not necessarily a huge deal. Athleticism is just as big a deal as anything else. Justin Smith and Ray McDonald are not exactly small guys, but they are not mammoths just occupying blockers. Here is what Draft Insider had to say about Purcell:

Positive: Fierce, active defensive tackle quickly rising up draft boards. Plays with excellent pad level, fires off the snap with a terrific first step, and slices through the small creases of the offensive line. Works his hands to protect himself, tough to move off the point, and holds his ground. Stays with the action, consistently finds a way to get behind the line of scrimmage, and a disruptive force. Fluid changing direction, moves well to every area of the field, and shows a good head for the ball. Fluid sliding down the line of scrimmage in pursuit of the action.

Negative: Lacks great bulk, engulfed by larger blockers, or struggles shedding blocks once engaged at the point of attack. Possesses average pursuit speed.

What to expect in 2013

Purcell's best opportunity this year is on the practice squad. The additions of Tank Carradine and Quinton Dial, the return of Demarcus Dobbs, and the general depth along the defensive line make a roster spot hard to envision. If Purcell did make the roster, he would likely spend most of his time on special teams, in a sort of Demarcus Dobbs type of role. I don't see him getting much time with the starting defense.

Odds of making the roster

It's a tough road for Purcell, due to the additions of Tank and Dial. However, there injuries do potentially open the door for a little more practice time higher up the depth chart. His odds of making the 53-man roster are pretty slim, but the practice squad seems realistic. At some point we'll need to go through all the practice squad eligible players and sort through this because I feel I've said practice squad is realistic for a lot of young guys.