The 49ers signed safety Chanceller James as an undrafted free agent out of Boise State last season, and from reports coming out of offseason and preseason work, James was making quite the impression.
Given his performances in college, this perhaps shouldn’t have been quite such a surprise - despite being undrafted, he left college having made his mark. As a senior he earned Second-Team All-Mountain West honours, led the Broncos with three interceptions and finished second on the team with 80 tackles.
Unfortunately for James, just as injuries in the secondary had struck to give him a real chance to make the regular season roster, he was bitten by the injury bug himself, and missed his first season as a 49er with an ACL injury. He has yet to participate in team activities this season, and finds himself in a more crowded, younger safety room than he arrived into last season. If James can return to the performance levels he showed last season however, things could get interesting.
Age: 23 (turns 24 on September 26th)
Experience: Second season (spent his rookie year on IR)
James enters the second season of the three year UDFA contract he signed with the 49ers. He has a cap hit of $480,000 and no dead cap hit if he didn’t make the roster.
What to expect in 2018
When he returns to full health, expect James to compete with the likes of Marcell Harris, Don Jones, and Terrell Williams for the back up strong safety spot behind starter Jaquiski Tartt. James has described himself as someone who looks to dominate against the run - a crucial trait for the strong safety in this scheme. Furthermore, James reportedly showed up as a talented coverage player before he got hurt, suggesting he is capable of filling in for Tartt should he be required to do so as both a run defender and coverage player.
Whilst we should not be expecting the high level of play Tartt has displayed, James’ performances are undoubtedly ones we should be looking out for. Additionally, special teams will form a crucial part of the equation - James has his work cut out for him there having to compete against known special teams demons Harris and Jones. They too however, are coming off injuries.
Odds of making the roster
Given both he, Harris, and Jones are all coming off injuries, things will be extremely open come training camp in the battle for the safety berths. Unlike Harris, James has some experience playing in the scheme, as well as having a year of mental reps under his belt. He is also younger than Don Jones, which could work in his favor — Jones is a known quantity (a special teams stud), whereas James could develop into something far more than that. Possibly helped by the versatility of Jaquiski Tartt and Jimmie Ward to play the deep safety spot, both Harris and James could make the roster and right now, James should have a slight edge. James describes himself as “coachable and angry”, traits that will serve him well in the competition for a roster spot.
Check out this interview with Chanceller, from the other site I write for, Nothing But Niners: