Matt Dunham/Associated Press
It's year two for the British ex-Olympian. This time around, Lawrence Okoye has a better chance of making the 53-man roster.
Last year, the talk was mostly about how quickly a 6'6", 300-pound bowling ball with a 4.78-second 40-yard dash could translate his discus and rugby skills to the gridiron. Realistically, he didn't have much of a shot to make the roster as a defensive lineman or special teams player. Defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said in June of 2013, via Matt Maiocco of CSN Bay Area:
He hasn't had anybody hit him, yet. He hasn't had a double-team, yet. He hasn't figured out if it's a run or pass, whether he should rush or play the run. So it'll probably be a very slow process with him much more than a normal rookie.
The telling quote came from Jim Harbaugh:
You just kind of wonder what the jump would be from Year 1 to Year 2 for him. And I hope that he continues to show up, listen, work extremely hard, and show enough that we'll be able to go from Year 1 to Year 2.
He was placed on injured reserve in late August.
Now, he's turning heads on special teams.
“Fun to watch, wasn’t it?” Harbaugh said, via Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle. “A big, 300-and-however-many-pound guy running down on the kickoffs. I’d love to see it."
But Harbaugh and Fangio both want to see more improvement on the defensive line.
"He’s got to make it as a position player and that’s what he’s trying to get done," Harbaugh said when asked whether Okoye could make the team as a special teams ace, via David Fucillo of Niners Nation.
"He looks a lot better than he did last year at this time," Fangio said. "Hopefully it’s easier for us to put him into some preseason games, give him some more practice reps and actually see where he’s at."
Based on Fangio's quote, he sounds like a long shot. However, his special teams skills could give him a leg up on the competition.
Okoye is the biggest long shot on this list but don't count him out. With a breakout performance on the defensive line in training camp, he could steal a roster spot from the older and more expensive Demarcus Dobbs.