Each year, we run a series of post called "90-in-90" here at Niners Nation. The idea is that we'll take a look at every single player on the roster, from the very bottom to the top and break them down a few different ways. This is to help give everyone a basic understanding of a roster. Of course, this roster will change, and some days we'll have more than one so it's not strictly one per day but Fooch is a crazy person who manages this blog with no rhyme or reason and it's worked so far. Who am I to argue?
Jarryd Hayne, a two time player of the year in the National Rugby League, is trying to pursue his dreams of being a National Football League star. The San Francisco 49ers signed Hayne earlier this offseason to a 3-year contract with $100,000 in guaranteed money. He is listed as a running back, but his workouts leading up to his signing showed off rushing, receiving and return capabilities.
Hayden Smith, a Rugby Union player1, recently tried a similar transition to the NFL, and made a roster his first season. However, he was cut after appearing in 5 games for the New York Jets. This offseason leading up to his signing, the buzz around Hayne was palpable.
What to Expect in 2015:
Captain Obvious alert: Playing in the NFL, let alone playing well, is hard. Players often try to make the transition to pro football and simply do not succeed. (See: Lesnar, Brock)
There are so many nuances to the pro game that many don’t take into account when looking at YouTube highlight reels. From something as simple as a practice schedule to the complexities of picking up a fire-zone blitz, simply putting a guy on the field because he’s talented isn’t an option. Hell, even wearing pads is going to be an adjustment.Your periphery vision is limited, you cannot raise your hands the same way, and your hearing is muffled.
Yes, Jarryd Hayne oozes talent, but it simply takes time to get to the point where Hayne gets meaningful snaps on offense. Put another way, if Jarryd Hayne is getting meaningful snaps on offense this year, he would either be one of the most successful sport switchers in history, or the entire running back corps would have to come down with Reggie "I can’t play a full 16 games" Bush syndrome.
Where Hayne is likely to make any impact is on special teams. At 6’2", 220 pounds, Hayne runs a 4.5 40-yard dash. Players like Boobie Dixon, Carlos Hyde, and Delanie Walker have all returned kicks for the 49ers, so it’s not uncommon for a bigger back to be a return man. Plus, open field return would be the thing that most resembles a rugby play.
Odds of making the roster:
Typically, I would say someone in Hayne’s position would follow more of the Lawrence Okoye path: Learn the game on the practice squad and look to make the roster in year two or three. However, with a $100,000 salary guarantee, and suitors like the Detroit Lions likely to snap Hayne up on waivers, Hayne’s chances of making the 53-man roster are actually pretty good.
Reggie Bush is one of Hayne’s close friends, so he has a mentor on the team. And Hayne has been getting extensive practice fielding punts while Bruce Ellington is sidelined with an injury. While it’s really fun to think about how his rugby skills translate, Hayne still has plenty of work to make an impact for the 49ers as a special teams player.
Rugby Union and Rugby League differ in their rules. Many say that Rugby League, where Hayne played, is more akin to the NFL game than Rugby Union. ↩