This is a great value move by the 49ers after the draft, especially when the well has essentially run dry and most of the incoming athletic talent has been claimed by other clubs.
At the end of the day, teams are looking for upside with UDFAs.
At 6’6”, 304 pounds, Olympian Lawrence Okoye has a higher ceiling than most developmental prospects coaches take on as undrafted free agents. A supreme physical specimen, Okoye wowed scouts at the super regional combine.
With his behemoth frame, the British-born record-holder for discus ran a remarkable 4.78 40-yard dash (h/t NFL.com). This sort of freakish athleticism is hard to come by, which makes him such a captivating project player at the next level.
He also coupled the 40 time with a 35” vertical and 10’5” broad jump.
Okoye’s broad jump would have been third at the NFL combine among defensive linemen. The only two prospects to best his mark were No. 6 overall pick Barkevious Mingo and Devin Taylor (10’8”)—and both players are considerably lighter (around 40 lbs).
Fortunately, despite the tantalizing measurables Okoye showed off in front of scouts, not one NFL team was willing enough to even spend a seventh-round draft selection for his exclusive rights.
Without a doubt, this was an element the 49ers were hoping would play out. Shortly thereafter, Jim Harbaugh and Co. would swoop in for Okoye on Day 3. San Francisco wound up with a world-class athlete that they don’t have to rush to play.
Okoye will immediately get to work with Jim Tomsula, the acclaimed defensive line coach for the 49ers.
In 2013, a 21-year-old Okoye will be putting pads on for the first time, making him a legitimate side project in San Francisco. He will take time to develop, learning the nuances of the NFL game.
However, in a year or two, Okoye could be a weapon for this defense and perhaps an effective 3-technique lineman once Justin Smith has moved on.