The San Francisco 49ers have signed 12 undrafted free agents to their roster, rounding out the 90-man roster along with 11 draft picks. As happens every year, we have a few players that people are already enamored with, and I think most of us figure to see one or two diamonds in the rough emerge.
We'll be going through each of the UDFAs and looking at them from a variety of angles, but I wanted to start with a bit of an overview. We had a quick look at some basic background info on each UDFA. Today, I thought we'd look at the kind of depth chart competition they face. I've combined players by position. There will be some differences for some of them, but this will prevent too much repetition.
WR Devon Cajuste
WR Bryce Treggs
This is a tough one to figure in light of Chip Kelly implementing his offense. We know Torrey Smith is not going anywhere, but after that, what exactly do we make of the position. Guys like Bruce Ellington, DeAndre Smelter, Eric Rogers, and Quinton Patton (depending on what side of that debate you fall on) would seemingly make sense on the roster, but who knows what a new coaching staff with a drastic offensive change brings.
Cajuste is quickly a fan favorite, and brings a little something different than Treggs. There was some pre-draft talk that Cajuste could serve in an h-back or tight end role. I imagine he will get work all over to prove his worth, but even still, he is a long-shot to make the roster.
OL Alex Balducci
OL Blake Muir
OL Norman Price
The offensive line will feature a decent amount of turnover this year. Joshua Garnett and Zane Beadles will likely slot in at the two guard positions. Andrew Tiller showed a lot last season, but seems to be competing for a reserve role at this point. Trenton Brown is likely the leader in the right tackle competition. John Theus and Fahn Cooper will be competing their and potentially at guard. And of course, Erik Pears is in the mix as well.
The 49ers still have some draft pedigree guys in Marcus Martin and Brandon Thomas. They also signed Colin Kelly out of the CFL with $65,000 in guaranteed money. Kelly is practice squad eligible, and a PS salary can offset that guaranteed money. The three offensive line UDFAs are likely competing primarily for practice squad spots. Balducci spent his college career on the defensive line, and with the team trying him out on the offensive line, he could be that developmental prospect.
DL Demetrius Cherry
DL Darren Lake
The 49ers loaded up on defensive line talent in the 2016 NFL Draft, adding DeForest Buckner in the first round and Ronald Blair in the fifth round. Ian Williams is recovering from offseason ankle surgeries, and Glenn Dorsey is recovering from his ACL tear last fall. With Quinton Dial and Arik Armstead in the group, there are not a lot of free roster spots. Mike Purcell, Tony Jerod-Eddie, Garrison Smith, and Kaleb Ramsey are all in the mix for reserve spots.
The nose tackle position could be the place where a UDFA could land on the roster given Williams' unknown rehab timetable. Purcell is likely a favorite to land a spot, particularly if Williams opens training camp on the PUP list. But there could be serious competition there.
OLB Kevin Anderson
OLB Jason Fanaika
OLB Lenny Jones
The 49ers need some pass rush depth, but they waited until post-draft to add outside linebackers. They likely will expect more help with DeForest Buckner along the line, but there are still some opportunities for the UDFAs. Ahmad Brooks and Aaron Lynch are likely the first string OLBs for the time being. Eli Harold is likely the primary utility guy, with Tank Carradine hopefully showing something in his transition to a pure pass rush role. After that, Corey Lemonier and Marcus Rush are competing for whatever is left over.
I imagine one of these UDFAs ends up on the practice squad, but there is a possibility one could find a roster spot. We'll keep talking about Ahmad Brooks' future for the foreseeable future. Maybe this is the year he ends up elsewhere. If the team does decide Eli Harold has developed enough to risk going younger, it opens the door for one of these UDFAs.
S Jered Bell
The 49ers safety position has some significant depth to it. Eric Reid and Antoine Bethea opened last season as the starters, with rookie second round pick Jaquiski Tartt behind them. After Bethea was lost for the season, Tartt moved into the starting lineup. During the draft this year, general manager Trent Baalke suggested Jimmie Ward would eventually transition to safety. He did not specify when on that one. Either way, there are a lot of options. Bell could end up as a potential practice squad candidate.
K John Lunsford
Phil Dawson is firmly entrenched as the starter. He signed a one-year contract that is fully guaranteed. The 49ers could easily take the dead money hit if they released him, but Lunsford's roster odds are as long as anybody.