One year ago, I said Najee Toran may have been a diamond in the rough for the San Francisco 49ers. I also said he would need development. This was at a time when the 49ers offensive line was a huge question mark. Not for ability, but just who was going to win those starting spots.
One year later and he’s gotten that development but the 49ers have also gotten their offensive line figured out somewhat. In 2018, Toran did make the roster, but never got onto the field on gameday. he was kept for disasters.
Can he put things together for his second season?
Experience: second season
He is in the first year of a 2-year futures contract signed in late 2018. His salary for 2019 pays him $570,000.
How he can improve
Toran came out of UCLA as an ‘ok’ pass-blocker and a ‘meh’ run blocker. Kyle Shanahan’s offense is predicated on those run blocks and Toran will need to continue getting his reps in that style. If he can run block, his pass blocking could be ignored and he could be used in an emergency.
Beyond that, improvement would be if he could get onto the roster itself. He’s got a shot. Guard Joshua Garnett is on his last legs and will be fighting for a roster spot as well, but it’s not out of the realm of impossibility for Toran bump Garnett.
How he can regress
There isn’t much film on Toran unless you want to watch his preseason tape or pumping up the crowd at training camp. Toran could just be unable to keep up with the athleticism required to hold blocks in Kyle Shanahan’s system. If he can’t do that, and if he’s not offering much when Jimmy Garoppolo—or whatever quarterback he’s guarding in preseason games—drops back, it’s all over.
Odds of making the roster
The 49ers have had chances to move on from Toran, but they are bringing him back after one season. Do they see something there? Perhaps. They haven’t cut him in favor of a shiny new guard that’s for sure. That said, Toran hasn’t done enough to see the field, let alone a consistent spot on the roster. The 49ers offensive line is somewhat set, but there’s plenty of room for backups. Joshua Garnett is on thin ice and they also drafted offensive tackle Justin Skule with their final pick in the 2019 NFL draft. Toran may not find a starting spot, but with a season under his belt, he may have worked his way into a decent backup role for 2019, though the 49ers may want a swing tackle instead. If Toran makes the team, it would show improvement. Though with what we’ve seen (or haven’t seen in this case) his time may be up.