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49ers roster breakdowns, 90-in-90: WR/KR Victor Bolden, Jr.

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Breaking down the 90 players on the 49ers offseason roster in 90 posts (over 90 or so days). Today: UDFA KR Victor Bolden Jr.

NCAA Football: Oregon State at Minnesota Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

Each year, we run a series of post called "90-in-90" here at Niners Nation. The idea is that we'll take a look at every single player on the roster, from the very bottom to the top and break them down a few different ways. This is to help give everyone a basic understanding of a roster. Of course, this roster will change, and some days we'll have more than one so it's not strictly one per day but you get the idea.

Victor Bolden, Jr. has been the primary offensive weapon for the last three years as Brandin Cooks’ successor on a bad Oregon State Beavers team. Sharp-eyed readers may wonder why his production dropped from his sophomore year (72 receptions for 798 yards) to his junior (46-461) and senior (46-542) seasons. (The high school track star also ran the 60 meter hurdles for Oregon State his soph year.)

Fret not. The Beavers passed wildly in 2014, QB Sean Mannion’s last year, which inflated his stats. Both Mannion and coach Mike Riley left after that season, and the team shifted to a heavily run-focused attack. Also, they stank, winning just six games in two years.

Draft profiles have focused on Bolden’s kick return work as much as his pass catching. He returns both kickoffs (108 for 2,420 yds. and 3 TDs over his college career) and punts (19 PRs for 186 yds. and 1 TD).

I wonder why his ability to run doesn’t get more attention. Bolden had 28 carries for 329 yards and two touchdowns last year, leading to a very basic question: why does a guy who averages 12 yards a carry in the PAC-12 only get 28 carries?!?! Over 3 years, he ran 95 times for 727 yards and three TDs. At the least, he would be a great option for fly sweeps (like his two rushing TDs last year, a 92-yarder against Idaho State and 75 yards against Washington).

Basic info

Age: 22 (turns 23 on April 24, 2018)
Experience: Rookie
Height: 5’8”
Weight: 178 lbs
40-yard dash: 4.54 (Combine)
3-Cone drill: 6.83
225 lb bench press reps: 9
20-yard shuttle: 4.22
Vertical jump: 32”
Long jump: 9’8”

Salary Cap Info

Salary: $465,000
Guarantees: None

Scouting reports

Appeared in 46 games (36 starts) during his four-year career at Oregon State. Registered 170 recepts. for 1,863 yds. and 7 TDs while adding 95 rushing atts. for 727 yds. and 3 TDs. As a returner, recorded 108 KORs for 2,420 yds. and 3 TDs along with 19 PRs for 186 yds. and 1 TD.
As a senior in 2016, appeared in all 12 games (11 starts) and led the team in recepts. (46) and rec. yds. (542) while adding 28 rushing atts. for 329 yds. and 2 TDs on the ground. Also notched 27 KORs for 42 yds. and 1 TD.
In 2015, appeared in all 12 games and recorded 46 recepts. for 461 yds. and 3 TDs to earn All-Pac-12 Honorable Mention honors. Also added 36 rushing atts. for 185 yds., 23 KORs for 580 yds. and 1 TD.
As a sophomore, started all 11 games in which he appeared and totaled 72 recepts. for 798 yds. and 2 TDs along with 19 carries for 118 yds. In 2013, appeared in 13 games (2 starts) and recorded 6 recepts. for 62 yds. and 12 rushes for 95 yds. and 1 TD on offense. As a returner, registered 58 KORs for 1,198 yds. and 1 TD. Attended Los Osos (Rancho Cucamonga, CA) HS, where he earned All-CIF Southern Section Inland Division and all-league honors after totaling a combined 1,236 rush. and rec. yds. and 13 TDs as a senior. Born 4/4/95 in Rancho Cucamonga, CA.

Why he might succeed in the NFL

Besides his production and versatility, Bolden has a remarkable work ethic and drive that reminds OSU coach Gary Anderson of another player he watched from the sidelines as an assistant coach at Utah — NFL star Steve Smith Sr.

He’ll be listed as a slot receiver but Bolden’s real niche would be as kick returner, at least at first. The Niners used him as one of their primary kickoff returners in preseason workouts.

Why he might not

Bolden is fast but not amazing by NFL standards. He’s also the shortest of many short receivers the 49ers carry, at 50801. That alone doesn’t disqualify him, but Bolden doesn’t have the strength that someone like Darren Sproles (nicknamed “Tank” since childhood) uses to compensate. Bolden lifted the 225 pound stack just nine times at the Combine. He’ll need to work closely with the strength and conditioning staff if he wants to break any NFL tackles.

Odds of making the roster

The team looks ready to give him a long look as returner in training camp, no doubt charmed by his versatility. Those fly sweeps and the ability to run (perhaps a fake-play-action draw?) fit perfectly into Shanahan’s scheme. That said, there’s a lot of competition and he’d have to beat out half a dozen receivers probably to make the team: Bruce Ellington, DeAndre Carter, BJ Johnson III, Aaron Burbridge, Kendrick Bourne, and either DeAndre Smelter or Aldrick Robinson.

Unless he clearly establishes himself as the best kick returner in training camp, Bolden is likely working for a practice squad slot.