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Why Spencer Waege is the 49ers’ most intriguing UDFA addition

The defensive tackle brings athleticism and versatility.

North Dakota v North Dakota State Photo by Sean Arbaut/Getty Images

The 49ers only made one move to address their defensive line depth during the 2023 NFL Draft. But a signing made in the hours following the conclusion of events in Kansas City may prove more significant than it first seemed, if Spencer Waege can hit the ground running as a rookie.

San Francisco signed Waege as an undrafted free agent, giving the 49ers a defensive lineman who has been extremely productive at the FCS level.

With Georgia edge rusher Robert Beal Jr. the only defensive lineman selected by the Niners during the draft, San Francisco heads into the offseason training program with spots on the depth chart up for grabs at a position group where they have the starters to rival any team in the NFL.

And there is plenty to suggest Waege could win himself a roster spot at the bottom of the depth chart following an impressive college career with North Dakota State.

Waege is coming off a final season with the Bison in which he racked up nine sacks and 17.5 tackles for loss in helping them to the FCS National Championship Game.

Though that production came in college football’s second tier, those numbers — combined with the athleticism Waege displayed during pre-draft testing — point to a defender who potentially offers the upside to make the grade at the highest level.

Waege’s pre-draft workout saw him post an elite Relative Athletic Score (RAS) of 9.57 out of 10. Listed as a defensive tackle, the 290-pound Waege posted a 10-yard split of 1.66 seconds. For comparison, Calijah Kancey, the first-round pick of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, recorded a 10-yard split of 1.64 seconds at 281 pounds.

That is undoubtedly the blend of size and explosiveness the 49ers look for in their defensive linemen, and they will likely have been similarly intrigued by his versatility.

Albeit in the FCS, Waege displayed the ability to win from the interior and off the edge. He may not have the agility to do so in the NFL but, after losing Charles Omenihu in free agency, the 49ers could well be eager to see if Waege can grow into a player who can fill that void and give San Francisco useful snaps from both spots.

His career-best 2022 season coming after most of his 2021 campaign was lost to a torn ACL and meniscus, Waege has already shown great resilience to get to this point and, on a defensive line where the competition for places on the depth chart behind Nick Bosa and company promises to be fierce, he’ll need to display similar fortitude to make the roster and prove a shrewd UDFA acquisition.