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?
Thus far our 90-in-90 breakdowns have focused on fairly notable names up and down the San Francisco 49ers roster. Today, we move on to someone a bit further down the radar, but someone that has a significant opportunity in 2015.
The 49ers signed cornerback Leon McFadden to their practice squad on September 15, 2014. The New York Jets had waived McFadden on September 11, and nobody claimed him. He was on the practice squad for six weeks, and then was activated for Week 9 following the team's bye. That move coincided with the team's decision to place cornerback Chris Cook on injured reserve.
McFadden was on the roster the rest of the season. He was active but did not play in Week 9, was inactive Week 10, and was active and played the final seven games of the season. He played 85 defensive snaps and 67 special teams snaps. His snaps broke down as follows:
Week 11: 1 D, 8 ST
Week 12: 1 D, 11 ST
Week 13: 6 ST
Week 14: 11 D, 9 ST
Week 15: 32 D, 9 ST
Week 16: 7 D, 13 ST
Week 17: 29 D, 11 ST
The team gave him some opportunities, and while he was not spectacular, he did some solid work at times. In his 32 snaps against Seattle in Week 15, he gave up one reception for seven yards on two targets, according to PFF. In Week 17 against Arizona, he gave up two receptions for 22 yards, with one of them good for 21 yards. In Week 14 against the Raiders, he gave up a 5-yard touchdown reception on two targets.
Why he might improve:
He got a nice chunk of playing time to close out the season. He was a third round pick of the Cleveland Browns in 2013, but was released following a change in the coaching staff. If you are inclined to give him a boost because of draft pedigree, that's certainly something. But specific selection number aside, college scouting reports viewed him as a capable slot corner (NFL.com, Draft Insider, NE Patriots Draft). He is not a huge guy, but has a good combination of traits to overcome that to some degree.
He never found his place with the Browns or Jets, but opportunities abound among a group of 49ers cornerbacks that have plenty of question marks. If he can put those traits together, he could take a step forward.
Why he might regress:
He does not have elite speed, so it is possible his size is just too much to overcome. While some smaller players overcome the doubters, not everybody can overcome it. Additionally, while he enters what appears to be a pretty open competition at cornerback, there are a lot of intriguing young talents in the mix. The numbers game could be tough to overcome with the now healthy group of young cornerbacks.
Odds of making the roster:
I'm thinking a little less than 50/50. The 49ers cornerback depth chart includes the following:
Jimmie Ward (sort of, given he is listed mostly as just a DB and is looking at the nickel role)
There are few locks in this group, but there is a lot of interesting talent. If Acker and Reaser are completely healthy, as expected, they both are strong candidates to compete for dime work. My guess is Wright and Johnson are the favorites to start opposite Brock. Of course, Brock actually needs to prove he can stay healthy after a 2014 season ravaged by injuries.
Jimmie Ward is not taking part in full practices due to his foot recovery. If he is healthy for training camp, that further decreases the odds of McFadden making the roster. However, if Ward's foot turns into more of a problem, it opens the door since the 49ers will be looking for more nickel help. As always, injuries impact this depth chart quite a bit. McFadden is a talented cornerback, but the numbers game could prove tough for him.