The San Francisco 49ers were plenty active in undrafted free agency, signing 19 players following the 2017 NFL draft. They signed 18 initially, released two of them plus DuJuan Harris, and signed three more.
The 49ers have received praise for their additions, with Lorenzo Jerome, Cole Hikutini, and Kendrick Bourne among the players getting kudos. Late last week, Bleacher Report NFL analyst Gary Davenport offered up grades for each UDFA class. He gave the 49ers a B, which actually falls right in the middle of the pack. Seven teams received an A or A- and eight received a B+. The 49ers were one of nine teams to get a B. Nobody got lower than a C-, which makes sense given how low risk any of these signings are.
Davenport talked about the 49ers landing a large and varied class of UDFAs.
On defense, Lynch may have gotten a steal in small-school safety Lorenzo Jerome of St. Francis (PA). The 5'10", 204-pounder isn't a "wow" athlete, and his draft stock tumbled after poor workouts at the combine. But Jerome shined at the Senior Bowl and is a player who shows a lot more once the pads go on than he does running around in his underwear.
Offensively, the 49ers signed a bevy of linemen, albeit ones who are hardly household names. Michigan "tweener" Erik Magnuson hails from a big school, but Darrell Williams (Western Kentucky), Bret Treadway (Lamar) and JP Flynn (Montana State) will be ratcheting up the level of competition about 11 notches.
John Lynch and Kyle Shanahan made it clear they will always be looking for somebody better to improve the roster. The team cleared out quite a few returning players for the UDFAs, and even cut some 2017 veteran free agency signings. It is clear that UDFAs will get every chance to earn roster spots.
The 49ers have gotten their OTAs underway, as they are now in the third phase of the offseason workout program. There is no live contact, but for the most part, a lot of this is what we will see when training camp arrives. This is the biggest chance thus far for UDFAs and other under-the-radar players to make a name for themselves.
Below is a list of the 49ers UDFA class. It is possible the team will release a player or two and sign a UDFA or two between now and the start of training camp. Even without full contact work, I would not be surprised at all to see a change or two if anybody does not impress.
The biggest “loser” of the UDFA period is Kendrick Bourne. Eastern Washington is on the quarter system, and like Solomon Thomas (Stanford), Bourne is stuck waiting for finals to end. He can work out on his own, and watch practice film and study the playbook on his team-issued iPad, but he can’t participate in practices. That is tough enough for a high draft pick like Thomas. But for Bourne, it adds a degree of difficulty to his task.
That does open the door for wide receivers Victor Bolden and B.J. Johnson to show what they’ve got. They’re in no more than uniform shells, but strong performances in OTAs will be big for them as they head into training camp.
Lorenzo Jerome will be the name a lot of us are paying attention to in scouting reports. We’ve heard nothing but praise about his work in the Senior Bowl, and the safety position is kind of wide open. Jimmie Ward and Eric Reid seem to be the favorites at free and strong safety. Jaquiski Tartt is likely a strong candidate for a backup role, but there’s nothing after that remotely certain. The 49ers have guys like Adrian Colbert who could play both corner and safety, but Jerome has as big a chance as anybody in this group of UDFAs when it comes to impressing heading into training camp.
Tight end Cole Hikutini has gotten some buzz as well, and has a chance to show things as a pass catcher. The 49ers will not be able to see how he is as a blocker, other than whether or not he knows his basic assignments. Once we start seeing some contact later this summer, Hikutini will be able to show what else he can bring to the table. He can help himself in OTAs, but not nearly as much as later this summer.
QB Nick Mullens, Southern Miss
RB Matt Breida, Georgia Southern
FB Tyler McCloskey, Houston
WR Victor Bolden, Oregon State
WR Kendrick Bourne, Eastern Washington
WR B.J. Johnson III, Georgia Southern
TE Cole Hikutini, Louisville
OL J.P. Flynn, Montana State
OL Evan Goodman, Arizona State
OL Richard Levy, Connecticut
OL Erik Magnuson, Michigan
OL Darrell Williams Jr., Western Kentucky
DE Noble Nwachukwu, West Virginia
LB Jimmie Gilbert, Colorado
LB Donavin Newsom, Missouri
DB Zach Franklin, Washburn
S Malik Golden, Penn State
S Chanceller James, Boise State
S Lorenzo Jerome, Saint Francis (PA)