How Chris Borland Fits with the San Francisco 49ers

Peter Panacy@@PeterPanacyCorrespondent IMay 10, 2014

Inside linebacker Chris Borland looks to add depth behind injured linebacker NaVorro Bowman.
Inside linebacker Chris Borland looks to add depth behind injured linebacker NaVorro Bowman.Michael Conroy/Associated Press

The San Francisco 49ers have alleviated the need to add depth behind All-Pro linebacker NaVorro Bowman as he awaits his potential midseason return in 2014.

General manager Trent Baalke accomplishes this by tabbing Wisconsin inside linebacker Chris Borland with the 77th pick in Round 3 of the 2014 NFL draft.

In the wake of multiple trades and pick exchanges, Baalke eventually settled on a player that could not only fill an immediate need for the outset of the season, but potentially add some dynamic abilities into the 49ers future.

While Borland was ranked as the second-best available inside linebacker in this draft per CBS Sports, the job of taking over Bowman's role within San Francisco's front seven is not at all guaranteed.

Michael Wilhoite, the same linebacker who filled in admirably for Patrick Willis during a brief stint last season, should be considered the favorite to earn the job following training camp.

Still, adding Borland does make a lot of sense.



Per Rob Rang of CBS, Borland is an "underrated blitzer" who wastes "little time attacking his reads." While his size and speed are not necessarily ideal, Borland more than makes up for it with effort and awareness. 

These types of attributes will fit him well as he enters competition for a potential starting job kicking off the 2014 season.

Borland was second in the Big Ten Conference last year in solo tackles—numbers that helped him earn the 2013 Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year Award.

The rookie-to-be may also have an edge on other defensive rookies with San Francisco in 2014. According to Kevin Lynch of, Borland is already familiar with the 49ers' defensive scheme—"When Wisconsin made a switch to a 3-4 defense, Wisconsin coaches showed film of the 49ers’ defense. Borland said the Badgers ran a few of the 49ers’ pressures."

Familiarity, physicality and a positive attitude are always good traits for a young, promising rookie linebacker.


Borland's overall size leaves a bit to be desired.
Borland's overall size leaves a bit to be desired.Tom Lynn/Getty Images


As already mentioned, Borland lacks the elite size for the position and will not wow anyone with his physical traits.

Rang also points out on his CBS profile that Borland's arm length leaves a lot to be desired and the young linebacker's frame is basically "maxed out."

Also mentioned by Rang is Borland's "average-at-best straight-line speed," which can be determined by his combine numbers (also available via his CBS profile page).

Frank Cooney of (h/t CBS Sports) also points out that Borland has gone through two separate shoulder surgeries. Thus, the injury flag is certainly a question mark.


Final Thoughts

Had the 49ers been looking for a long-term linebacker solution, drafting Borland might not have been the best idea from Baalke's standpoint. Yet Borland does serve as an amicable stop-gap option that can either be placed in a reserve role or have the chance to compete for starting time during Bowman's recovery.

At any rate, San Francisco gets the insurance they need with Bowman on the mend. Whether or not Borland gets the nod over Wilhoite to start the season remains to be seen.

Still, it was a transaction that needed to happen at some point. The 49ers pull the trigger in Round 3.


Statistics, records and accolades courtesy of As always, be sure to stay tuned to this author's coverage and analysis of each 49ers pick in the 2014 NFL draft.


Peter Panacy is a featured columnist for Bleacher Report, covering the San Francisco 49ers. Follow him @PeterMcShots on Twitter.