The San Francisco 49ers signed 12 undrafted free agents this past week, rounding out the 90-man roster. Some could be released in the coming months if a need arises, but for now, these UDFAs are players from whom we will begin to irrationally expect big things in the preseason.
We'll be taking a look at the UDFAs from a variety of angles, but for now, I thought we'd start with some basics on each player. The 49ers sent out some background info, but we'll also find some scouting reports, and whatever other interesting info we can come up with for each player. Considering it a jumping-off point for your "Player X was our future" love!
Today, we start with Utah pass rusher Jason Fanaika. He played defensive end in college, but he is expected to move to outside linebacker in the NFL. The 49ers contacted Fanaika during the seventh round, and told him they were considering using their final pick on him. They ended up using it on cornerback Prince Charles Iworah, but the two sides worked out a deal shortly after the draft. Fanaika signed with the 49ers in part because they would let him play outside linebacker instead of defensive end.
Ht/Wt: 6'2, 278 pounds
Arm: 32 5/8"
Hand: 9 7/8"
40 time: 4.92
Bench press: 23
3-cone: 7.06 seconds
Short shuttle: 4.39
2014: 55 tackles (9.5 for loss), 5.0 sacks, 1 interception, 1 forced fumble, fumble recovery
2015: 50 tackles (10.0 for loss), 4.0 sacks, 4 pass deflections, 2 forced fumbles
Fanaika is 23, turning 24 in June. He went to Indianapolis on his Mormon mission, but cut it short in 2012 because his father was diagnosed with stage-4 colon cancer. Thankfully, his father, Sefita, has been in remission the last three years.
Appeared in 26 games (18 starts) and registered 88 tackles, 20.0 TFLs and 9.0 sacks in two seasons at Utah. In 2015, appeared in 13 games (10 starts) and recorded 53 tackles, 10.5 TFLs, 4.0 sacks, 2 FFs and 4 PDs. As a junior, appeared in all 13 games (8 starts) and registered 55 tackles, 9.5 TFLs and 5.0 sacks. Redshirted during the 2013 season after transferring from Utah State. At Utah State in 2012, played in 11 games (4 starts) and recorded 14 tackles, 2 TFLs and 1.0 sack. As a true freshman, appeared in 10 games (1 start) and registered 15 tackles. Attended Pleasant Grove (UT) HS, where he was first-team all-region and led his team to the state quarterfinals as a senior. Born 6/17/92 in Pleasant Grove, UT.
There seems to be a consensus that Fanaika played too heavy in 2015. He was listed at 271 at the Combine, and likely will be expected to cut a little weight this offseason. The 49ers outside linebackers are usually expected in the low 260s. Considering Fanaika wanted to play linebacker over defensive end, it would seem like he is prepared to cut some weight. And considering it was described by many as "gut weight", that would seem to bode well for getting a bit more lean.
Speed and explosiveness appear to be an issue as well. He can get into the backfield, but it seems like he struggles against better offensive tackles. He needs to work on his lower body in particular, which could be one thing that helps him improve.
On the positive side, he appears to have solid upper body strength that helps his bull rush. He appears to be fairly solid when it comes to setting the edge against the run. He seems to have solid balance and the needed fluid hips, so there is something the 49ers coaches can further develop.
vs. BYU - 12/19/2015
vs. Michigan - 9/3/2015
Aaron Lynch and Ahmad Brooks are the current starters at outside linebacker. Eli Harold is likely the primary utility guy for now, with Tank Carradine making the full transition to outside linebacker this year. Corey Lemonier and Marcus Rush are competing as well, but the opportunities will depend on three things: 1) How long Brooks sticks around, 2) how Harold develops in year 2, and 3) what happens with Tank. Fanaika's best bet is likely the practice squad, but there are just enough questions that a roster spot is not completely out of the question.