The San Francisco 49ers have signed 14 undrafted free agents since the 2018 NFL Draft came to a close. We could see some more UDFAs swapped in before training camp, but for the most part we know what the UDFA class looks like.
Over the next two and a half months, through the end of training camp, we’ll be trying to figure out which of the UDFAs might surprise us and grab a roster spot. There are fewer opportunities available this year, but there is a decent chance at least one of the UDFAs ends up snagging a roster spot.
We started with quarterback Jack Heneghan, moved on to running back Jeff Wilson, and then UDFA wide receiver Steven Dunbar and seventh round pick wide receiver Richie James. Most recently we looked at the offensive line, and today, we switch sides and look at the defensive line. The 49ers signed defensive tackles Niles Scott and Blaine Woodson to UDFA deals last month.
The 49ers have invested quite a bit in their defensive line, and the hope is the unit can stay healthy and take a big step forward this season. The pressure is on in particular for Solomon Thomas and Arik Armstead. They will be lining up as defensive ends in the team’s 4-3 look, but then moving inside on passing downs.
Scott (6’1, 326 lbs) and Woodson (6’1, 290 pounds) are both expected to compete primarily at the interior defensive tackle positions. Scott is described in this scouting report as a guy who would line up at the shade nose tackle position, which is what Earl Mitchell plays. Matt Barrows listed Woodson as third string at the other defensive tackle position.
Both players are longshots to make the roster barring a rather shocking showing in training camp. DeForest Buckner and Earl Mitchell are the starters in the base defense. Sheldon Day has a shot at being the first defensive tackle off the bench, although D.J. Jones could be the guy who gives Mitchell more of a rest.
When the team moves into the nickel, Thomas will move inside with Buckner, while Armstead will likely get work both inside and outside at that point. Rookie Jullian Taylor will likely compete inside and outside, and has a better shot at a roster spot than either Scott or Woodson. I won’t write them off completely, but both seem at best ticketed for the practice squad.