The San Francisco 49ers signed a host of undrafted free agents this offseason, and one who has gotten a lot of good press is safety Lorenzo Jerome. He attended Division III St. Francis, which kept him off the radar for most people for a while. He was an FCS All-American, and earned an invitation to the NFLPA Bowl. A strong performance there netted him an invite to the Senior Bowl, where he again had a big performance. He had two interceptions in each of the games.
The 49ers are shaking up their safety depth chart, and while they have starters in Jimmie Ward and Eric Reid, they lack much in the way of depth. Jaquiski Tartt is an option at strong safety, but Reid is the only one with free safety experience if Ward gets hurt.
This opens the door for Jerome, and it sounds like he is taking advantage of his opportunity. General manager John Lynch was on KNBR on Tuesday, and he mentioned Ronde Barber in discussing Jerome’s play-making skills.
“There’s no doubt about it, and we’re just as intrigued, I’m just as intrigued as you are. Always the same question, alright, he’s at St. Francis, [FCS], how does that translate to this? But I can tell you, certain guys, I played with Ronde Barber, and the ball always just found him. And what you realized after a while, it’s not finding him, he’s finding it. And some people say, ‘They’re just lucky. Every tip just comes to them.’ But that’s the way he’s been out here. I think he led the team during OTAs and all that in interceptions.
“And so, a guy who’s done it in college, albeit at a smaller level, did it in the all star games, and then he comes out here, and it’s still happening. I like his chances. We do feel like safety is a strong position for us, and we’ve got a lot of guys, so he has a lot of competition. And a lot of it’s going to be how well can he translate to special teams. But the things, the 40 time and all that, I think safety’s a position where, when you have tremendous instincts, when you have great understanding of angles, you can get by on some of that. And it’s not as if his numbers are so bad that he can’t play. He can definitely play in this league, and we’re excited to see if he can do enough to make this team.”
The 49ers return for training camp in four weeks, and Jerome will get a chance to build on his momentum. Given his performance thus far, it wouldn’t surprise me at all if we saw him racking up big plays in the preseason. Whether that’s enough to get him a roster spot remains to be seen. Like Lynch said, he’ll need to prove himself on special teams. But, the opportunity is there for the taking.