Recently, NFL draft analyst Tony Pauline released his draft grades for the San Francisco 49ers. He gave them an A-minus, coming away impressed with the level of talent the team added during and after the draft.
In discussing the UDFAs, Pauline had an interesting comment about linebacker Donavin Newsom.
Donavin Newsom was one of the most overlooked linebackers in this draft, and I would not be surprised at all if he makes the roster as a backup weakside defender.
Shortly after the draft, Chris Biderman took a look at the UDFAs with the best shot of making the 49ers roster, and he included Newsom on his short list. He talked about the value of smaller, faster linebacker prototypes in today’s NFL, and pointed to Newsom as a potential example of this:
Donavin Newsom is 6-foot-1 and 237 pounds with 4.54-second speed. The 49ers have starters lined up at inside linebacker but Newsom has the speed and size to play special teams while backing up the MIKE and WILL positions. The linebacker depth is unsettled and Newsom can earn a role with a strong training camp that highlights his athleticism and versatility.
I was doing some poking around, and it appears that back in February, one former NFL scout was high on Newsom. Chris Landry saw him as, “one of the more underrated linebackers in the draft. He has size deficiencies but plays fast, makes plays in every direction of the field and is constantly around the action. Expect the 6-foot-1, 235-pounder to be taken around the sixth-round.”
That report came on February 14, even though Newsom was not invited to the 2017 NFL Combine. He eventually ran the 4.54 40 at his Pro Day, and while those numbers are always open to debate, it would have been the second fastest LB time at the Combine. The only faster time belonged to defensive back Jabrill Peppers who did workouts with the linebackers as well.
Missouri ranked No. 112 in rushing yards allowed per game, and No. 88 in passing yards allowed per game, en route to a 4-8 season and last place in the SEC. Charles Harris was the only one of their players drafted, and a poor season certainly overshadowed some solid individual performances.
The 49ers invested in their linebackers this offseason, signing Malcolm Smith to a five-year $26.5 million deal, and then moving into the back end of the first round to draft Reuben Foster. Both could end up getting weak-side work, which means Newsom will have to show a lot on special teams. Of course, with linebackers like Brock Coyle and Dekoda Watson potentially landing some core special teams role, it could be an uphill climb.
John Lynch and Kyle Shanahan have made it pretty obvious they won’t mess around when it comes to putting the best options on the field. But it will still be an uphill climb for Newsom.