The San Francisco 49ers have been issuing uniform numbers to their veteran and rookie additions the past few weeks as they move through the offseason workout program. For some rookies, they are assigned a number and that’s it. For many players, they pick a number that has some meaning to them. For example, Solomon Thomas was initially assigned No. 96, but switched to No. 94 because of his admiration for DeMarcus Ware.
New 49ers fullback/offensive weapon Kyle Juszczyk chose No. 44, which he wore in Baltimore. He recently did some live video with 49ers.com, and he said he originally chose the number because of former NFL tight end Dallas Clark. When he first got to college, they gave him No. 90, and he was worried they wanted to switch him to defense. Eventually he got a chance to pick a proper number, and Clark was his inspiration.
Clark played tight end, and actually was on the Ravens when they drafted Juszczyk. As a rookie, Juszczyk wore No. 40, but once Clark retired after the 2013 season, the fullback switched to Clark’s number.
While Juszczyk is listed as a fullback, he’ll be playing all over the field. We joke about John Lynch calling him an offensive weapon, but we’ll likely see him rotating to a variety of roles. He’ll play fullback, but he’ll also work as a basic running back, and potentially as a tight end and split out as a wide receiver.
The 49ers used Delanie Walker in a similar fashion at times. He was primarily a tight end, but the 49ers moved him all around the field. They’re not an apples-to-apples comparison, but Juszczyk could be the guy we wanted after Walker left in free agency. Walker never surpassed 29 receptions in his time with the 49ers, finally emerging as a more significant pass catcher in Tennessee. He has had at least 60 receptions each season.
I expect Juszczyk to finish with significantly more catches in this offense than Walker did when he was with the 49ers. I could see Juszczyk ending up in the 40-50 reception range, and possibly more depending on how the passing game develops. It’s kind of fitting in some ways that he is wearing Dallas Clark’s number. Clark had a huge run from 2007-2009 in which he had 58, 77, and 100 receptions with the Indianapolis Colts. We’ll see where Juszczyk finishes compared to that.