The San Francisco 49ers signed quarterback Kory Faulkner as an undrafted free agent last month, and he is likely going to remain a significant project through training camp. The media asked offensive coordinator Greg Roman about Faulkner's progress, and he provided one of the more honest assessments we'll probably hear from him. He was specifically asked if Faulkner had NFL potential:
“Yeah, Kory’s diligent as heck. He is a lot of fun to work with. He’s one of those guys that presses upon me that he’s going, he’s the kind of guy that at some point in his career you can probably turn the keys over to him. And that’s a long ways off, but he definitely does some things that we like. Now, he had no offensive line in college, no offense to those players, but he can throw under duress let me tell you that. The first play here, I think we had really good protection and we said to him, ‘What’d you think of that? That was pretty neat, wasn’t it? You haven’t had that in a while.’ But, he had a big smile on his face. But, yeah he had to operate under duress. His first read in college was avoid the free rusher and then go from there. But, we really like Kory.”
He indicated Faulkner could reach the point of being a starter at some point, but he was clear that it was a ways off. Then he went into how bad Faulkner's offensive line was at Southern Illinois. The media was standing around Roman in this session, and that line sort of caught everybody off guard. You don't normally hear a coach dog another team's performance quite like this, even when it's a lower level of football.
Faulkner spoke briefly with the media at his locker, and he hit on the usual points about how he was looking to improve as a quarterback, and what he was up to. He did not get snaps when the team went to 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 work, but he did spend a decent amount of time with coaching intern George Whitfield. Although Whitfield is "only" an intern, he has extensive experience working with quarterbacks at his QB camp.
Faulkner had plenty of experience playing quarterback at SIU, but now he can really fine-tune his skills. And I have to think he'll get plenty of time to work on these skills. The 49ers have an open competition for the backup QB position, but I have to think he's a long-shot behind Blaine Gabbert, Josh Johnson and McLeod Bethel-Thompson. The question then becomes whether or not the 49ers will keep a third quarterback. If they do keep a third quarterback, I suspect we see Gabbert and McBLT making the team. I suppose Josh Johnson could squeeze out a spot, but I'm just not sure I see it.
If the 49ers were especially confident in their No. 2 QB (whomever that ends up being), they could very well keep Faulkner on the active roster. However, my guess is the team will look to stash him on the practice squad this season. Gabbert has a guaranteed salary in 2014, and then will be a free agent. If Gabbert is not overly impressive, the team could then look to move on to another backup option. If Faulkner spends the season with the practice squad, maybe he's ready to take on a bigger role in 2015.
Who knows how his development will progress between now and then, but I think he'll get some opportunities to work on his game for such a future role. Jim Harbaugh seemed to take to him pretty quickly, and Faulkner seems to be a big fan of Jim Harbaugh. I suppose the latter is not shocking given that Faulkner was a UDFA, but we'll see if that helps create a stronger working relationship.