Chris Owusu: Should San Francisco 49ers Have Taken a Chance on Undrafted WR?
It's hard to watch Chris Owusu's tape and see an undrafted free agent wide receiver, but that's exactly what he was this past weekend.
Owusu's three concussions over a 13-month period caused him to fall out of the draft for a league that seems increasingly concerned about head injuries.
The former Stanford Cardinal's disappointment didn't last too long, however, as his former coach Jim Harbaugh immediately scooped the WR up as a free agent for the San Francisco 49ers.
In the future, players like Owusu might not get that opportunity. Sports Illustrated's Jim Trotter reports that the NFL could look into barring players with a concussion history from playing. From Will Brinson of CBS Sports:
At least Dr. Robert Cantu, the co-chair of the NFL's head, neck and spine committee, says that it "definitely could be something in the future" anyway. Cantu...conceded the possibility of instituting "preemptive measures to keep concussed players out of the NFL" (Trotter's words) "definitely could be something in the future" (Cantu's). The doctor also said, however, that "the concrete data isn't there right now" to warrant doing such a thing. But it's at least, apparently, something that's being considered.
"What's going to help in the future is we'll not only be able to look at [a player's] history of concussions, but we'll be able to see structural changes on imaging studies that aren't available now," Cantu said. "Or there will be bio markets in the blood or spinal fluid that will allow us to identify individuals who have already had brain injuries that we can't detect right now. These things will greatly aid making those judgment calls."
One team's general manager told Trotter he wouldn't draft Owusu "if he was RG3" because of the concussions. Niners GM Trent Baalke disagreed (via Josh Katzowitz of CBS Sports):
Chris wasn't wiped off our board. You've got to remember, he was cleared to play by the same group of doctors that work with us on a regular basis. He certainly was not off our board.
The science is still cloudy enough that Owusu would have been a fine sixth- or seventh-round pick, in my opinion. His hands, size, speed and playmaking instincts are all starter quality. Austin Collie has been healthy after a scary 2010 with three concussions.
Don't be surprised if Owusu ends up being as good a pro as first-round pick WR A.J. Jenkins.
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