San Francisco 49ers Undrafted Free Agents: Need-to-Know Info for Every Signee
General manager Trent Baalke added a total of 12 players in the draft. This influx of prospective talent obviously has a comparable influence on how San Francisco acts with UDFAs at this stage of the offseason.
Sans the draft, the 49ers are already an elite team.
Laden with talent, San Francisco had the relative luxury of drafting for future considerations instead of immediate needs. While there are a number of prospects who have the chance to compete for a starting job right away, a good portion of the 49ers' 2014 draft class provides a good look into the future.
The interesting part of this, however, is the fact that San Francisco does not have a whole lot of roster space for this latest influx of talent.
While some—like Clemson guard Brandon Thomas—can effectively redshirt their rookie seasons, how will the other, primarily late-round prospects fit into the 49ers' future plans?
The same will obviously be said about UDFAs.
With 74 players currently under 49ers contract—plus an additional 12 draftees—San Francisco only has enough room for four UDFAs moving forward to get the roster to 90, per Christian Gin of Examiner.com.
The #49ers will have room for only four undrafted free agents. They have 12 draft picks plus 74 players under contract.— Christian Gin (@Christian_Gin) May 10, 2014
Given the current roster, San Francisco does not have to be too careful when examining such UDFAs. If there are some players that the 49ers viewed as hot commodities that went undrafted, making such selections may be what Baalke elects to do.
Of course the team could also take a flier on some other various developmental prospects like they did with Lawrence Okoye last season.
In this slideshow, we will have a running analysis of 49ers' UDFA acquisitions in the hours following the 2014 NFL draft.
The 49ers are expected to sign more than four UDFAs, which would exceed the roster total of 90 per Matt Maiocco of CSN Bay Area. This means the front office will have to make some cuts at some point, but that is news for another day.
Which players will the 49ers target, and how do they fit into the overall scheme of head coach Jim Harbaugh?
Let's take a look.
For added information regarding the 49ers' UDFA signings, please visit Sacramento Bee 49ers analyst Matt Barrows' updates.
Peter Panacy is a featured columnist for Bleacher Report, covering the San Francisco 49ers. Follow him @PeterMcShots on Twitter.
Kory Faulkner, QB, Southern Illinois
Kory Faulkner, Quarterback, Southern Illinois
One could have assumed the 49ers would have targeted a quarterback at some point late in the 2014 NFL draft.
Entering the season, San Francisco will employ quarterbacks Colin Kaepernick and Blaine Gabbert as its Nos. 1 and 2 men under center, respectively.
Behind them, McLeod Bethel-Thompson holds the third-string slot.
Yet there were a number of intriguing prospects available late in the draft. As things turned out, the 49ers passed on all of them, instead choosing to land Southern Illinois quarterback Kory Faulkner as a UDFA.
Just got off phone with Coach Harbaugh!! I am a 49er!!!!!!!— Kory Faulkner (@KFaulk19) May 10, 2014
At 6'3" and 229 pounds, Faulkner is a huge specimen with a strong arm.
Matt Barrows of The Sacramento Bee elaborates on him further by writing:
He missed three games with a broken finger but still finished with 1,997 yards and averaged nearly 222 passing yards a game. Faulkner also can run. He rushed 60 times for 283 yards and scored two rushing touchdowns last year. He'll compete against Blaine Gabbert and McLeod Bethel-Thompson for a backup job this offseason.
We all know the work head coach Jim Harbaugh has done with young quarterbacks. While the 49ers went through a plethora of quarterbacks last season after the draft and into the preseason, another move like this is not all that surprising.
Faulkner is at least a physically capable quarterback who has an outside chance to crack the roster pending what happens with Gabbert and Bethel-Thompson.
In this situation, why not sign him?
Morgan Breslin, OLB, USC
Morgan Breslin, Outside Linebacker, USC
The 49ers have already made some moves via the draft to bulk up the outside linebacker position heading into the 2014 season.
With Aldon Smith potentially suspended for a sizable portion of the year, the starting job will likely fall upon players like Corey Lemonier and Dan Skuta.
Behind them however, the 49ers wanted to provide some depth. They did so via the draft by adding players like Chris Borland and Aaron Lynch in Rounds 3 and 5, respectively.
Yet San Francisco gets a little deeper by adding Morgan Breslin out of USC—news of which was broken by Kyle Bonagura of ESPN (h/t Alicia De Artola of Fansided.com).
Have confirmed USC DE Morgan Breslin will sign with the 49ers.— Kyle Bonagura (@BonaguraESPN) May 10, 2014
Listed by CBS Sports as an outside linebacker, Breslin also comes with the flexibility of having played along the defensive line at USC.
This gives San Francisco even further depth along its defensive front, proving that they are one of the deepest and most talented teams in the NFC in this regard.
At 6'1" and 240 pounds, Breslin certainly lacks the elite size necessary for a solid pass-rushing linebacker off the outside.
As described by Derek Stephens and Rob Rang of CBS Sports:
Size limitations and trouble handling the run make it tough to envision even a healthy Breslin being an every down three-point edge rusher at the next level. Struggles to disengage at the point of attack, and lacks the strength to consistently anchor against the run. Does not display power to move opposing blockers with a bull rush, and collapses at the elbow on contact too frequently, rendering him easy to control by strong tackles and even tight ends at times.
Still, the addition gives some bulk to the 49ers' front seven. If Breslin is able to make the roster, he should have an open shot to at least back up some of San Francisco's starters in the upcoming season.
L.J. McCray, SS, Catawba
L.J. McCray, Strong Safety, Catawba
With a crowded secondary, safety L.J. McCray is probably nowhere close to being a favorite to land a starting job in the 49ers' backfield in 2014.
#49ers latest UFA: safety/returner L.J. McCray from Catawaba (Jim Tomsula's alma mater)— Cam Inman (@CamInman) May 11, 2014
He does have services as a return specialist, however.
From Catawba Football (h/t NFLDraftScout.com):
McCray, a senior, has been one of the top kick returners in the nation his last two seasons. He led the nation in 2010 before missing almost all of the 2011 season. On defense, McCray was third on the team with 79 tackles and added a pair of interceptions.
If the 49ers are looking for McCray to serve as a return specialist in 2014, it could very well spell the end of incumbent returner LaMichael James' tenure in San Francisco.
James, who has been disgruntled with his role on the 49ers' offense, would like to receive more playing time. After McCray's signing, that time could be spent elsewhere.
Additionally, McCray has some serviceability on special teams.
McCray is a very athletic safety who stood out with an impressive 41-inch vertical leap at his pro day. His best fit immediately might be on special teams coverage units. The 49ers' top players there—C.J. Spillman, Bubba Ventrone, Dan Skuta and Kassim Osgood—are entering the final year of their contracts. McCray also has returned kicks.
The 49ers do have a need in the return game, and an upgrade over James would provide some dynamic aspects to what the 49ers will look to do on special teams.
It's a solid grab at the outset, and if McCray works out, this might be one of the better selections from general manager Trent Baalke after the draft.
Asante Cleveland, TE, Miami
The final UDFA signed by the 49ers is University of Miami tight end Asante Cleveland—news of which has been broken by the Hurricanes' official Twitter account.
Per @CanesFootball, tight end Asante Cleveland has joined the 49ers (confirmed w/his agent)— Niners Nation (@NinersNation) May 11, 2014
In four years at Miami, the 6'5", 260-pound tight end totaled 14 receptions for 151 rushing yards. While the offensive stats do not jump off the table, Cleveland's sheer size makes him an attractive option in blocking schemes and in jumbo packages for the 49ers.
Dane Brugler of NFLDraftScout.com noted, "Despite eight starts in 2013, Cleveland was underutilized in Miami's offense as a pass catcher with only three catches as a senior, but he has the tools to possibly stick on a roster."
Perhaps the former is reason enough for the 49ers to have interest.
San Francisco has its Nos. 1 and 2 tight ends set for 2014—Vernon Davis and Vance McDonald, respectively. With those two set, Cleveland will likely compete with tight ends Garrett Celek and Derek Carrier on the 49ers' depth chart.
Here is what David Fucillo of Niners Nation had to say about him:
The 49ers brought back another local product in Miami, Fl tight end Asante Cleveland (from Sacramento). He measured in at the Miami Pro Day at 6'4, 261 pounds. He ran a 4.88 40, and put 20 reps on the bench press. Over the course of four seasons, he caught 14 passes for 151 yards and one touchdown. Based on this, he is either expected to be nothing more than a blocking tight end, or very raw project. We'll see what camp brings.
Fucillo's analysis is spot on. Unless the 49ers are seeing something that all of us have missed, Cleveland will be a work in progress or a blocking tight end in jumbo packages.
His size is the one thing that Cleveland has going for him.
For continued 49ers' draft analysis and coverage, be sure to check out Peter Panacy's full archive.
Peter Panacy is a featured columnist for Bleacher Report, covering the San Francisco 49ers. Follow him @PeterMcShots on Twitter.
Dillon Farrell, C, New Mexico
Dillon Farrell, Center, New Mexico
San Francisco continues to add some competition to the mix at its center position entering 2014.
Having already drafted USC center Marcus Martin in Round 3, general manager Trent Baalke tabs New Mexico center Dillon Farrell as an UDFA.
Farrell was not ranked as a potential draft-day target per CBS Sports, but the 49ers' front office felt that could get some use out of him—perhaps as depth or to compete with centers like Martin and Daniel Kilgore entering training camp.
While the competition at center may be the primary reason the 49ers brought Farrell on board, he realistically does not have a very good shot to crack the roster, potentially winding up being a practice squad addition.
Per his Nolan Nawrocki of NFL.com:
[Farrell is] Underpowered, strength-deficient, hit-and-whiff pivot lacking consistency and athletic talent desired on the inside, yet has enough length and agility to fend for a job as a swing interior backup.
On the plus side, Farrell was a four-year starter and earned All-Mountain West honorable mention honors in his senior year per Matt Maiocco of CSN Bay Area.
Farrell has an outside chance to eventually work his way into a backup role at some point down the road. Perhaps this option gives him the chance to make an impact at the NFL level someday.
Fou Fonoti, OT, Michigan State
Fou Fonoti, Tackle, Michigan State
San Francisco continues to make moves to beef up the offensive line post the draft when they sign Michigan State offensive tackle Fou Fonoti.
Per Michigan State football (h/t CBS Sports):
The 6'4", 298-pound Fonoti has played in 28 career games with the Spartans, including all 12 this season. Fonoti, who has started the last nine games at right tackle, has been credited with 39.5 knockdowns in 2013, including a season-high eight in the win at Nebraska on Nov. 16.
While he is listed as a tackle, Fonoti will likely wind up swinging inside as a guard at the NFL level due to his relatively small stature. Plus, the 49ers are already loaded at the tackle position and may be looking to bulk up the interior of the line with backup Adam Snyder and starter Mike Iupati entering contract years.
With this move, San Francisco adds some further competition entering training camp—especially for backup guards like Joe Looney and Ryan Seymour.
Fonoti's ability to play at tackle also at least provides the 49ers with some added, flexible depth if necessary.
We all know how much the 49ers' coaching staff loves competition—even for its depth players—and this move ensures something like this will happen.
Shayne Skov, ILB, Stanford
Shayne Skov, Inside Linebacker, Stanford
The 49ers landed perhaps one of the better value picks when they signed inside linebacker Shayne Skov from Stanford.
Projected by CBS Sports as the third-best inside linebacker prospect in 2014—a late third- or early fourth-round draft pick—Skov slipped out of the draft, allowing San Francisco to grab him as an UDFA.
Right above him on the positional rankings was Chris Borland—another inside linebacker the 49ers got their hands on.
Stanford's Shayne Skov now says he will join the 49ers. Team took inside linebacker Chris Borland in the third round.— Matt Barrows (@mattbarrows) May 11, 2014
Don't know where the whole Oakland thing came from... But I'm headed to the 49ers, gunna make my mark in this league before it's all over— Gojira ゴジラ Skov (@ShayneSkov) May 11, 2014
Now in San Francisco, Skov will reunite with head coach Jim Harbaugh—the same man who recruited him to play at Stanford per Maiocco.
At Stanford, Skov totaled 355 tackles—40.5 of them for a loss—as well as 16 sacks over a five-year span. While he did miss most of the 2011 season with a torn ACL, there is no doubting his abilities on the field.
Frank Cooney of The Sports Exchange (h/t CBS Sports) wrote:
Last year, he finally played back to form as an enforcer with brutally strong hands and a knack at timing blitzes and causing turnovers. What he lacks in graceful agility he makes up for with a rudely abrupt style of play. Frankly: Doubters be damned. Draft him. Pay him. Play him.
With Borland and Skov on the roster, the 49ers will have a plethora of inside linebackers from which to choose heading into 2014. All-Pro linebacker NaVorro Bowman is expected to miss perhaps half of the season recovering from the injury he sustained in the NFC Championship game last season.
While Michael Wilhoite will likely get the nod as Bowman's immediate replacement, Borland and Skov at least provide amicable depth and, at best, a starting option down the road if it winds up being necessary.
This is a great move by the 49ers and it comes at a bargain cost.