Mike Holmgren and the Cleveland Browns just gave the 49ers and the rest of the NFL a schooling in outside the box scouting strategy.
Take notes, Trent Baalke.
Physical offensive lineman Joel Reinders was recently signed by Cleveland to try out for a position, and from his YouTube video I'd say he has a fair shot at making it.
The unrefined blocker has raw—and I mean frozen solid—athletic potential.
Listed as 6'7" to 6'8" and 320 pounds with a 32" vertical and a 9'0" broad jump, he has all the tools but none of the instruction.
Here is a man who played hockey most his life, but at 6'8", it was evident that he was a little too big. Then came basketball, naturally. At 320 pounds, however, he was just a bit too thick.
The physicality required for hockey, the athleticism intrinsic in basketball, and the sheer size alone of this guy give him a real shot.
Reinders has played in eight organized football games. I've played in more, and my high school experience was cut short by a hip injury. Then again, I'm not 6'8" and 320. Oh, and my YouTube video doesn't look like this.
Granted, these aren't exactly SEC or Big 12 ends he's pushing around, but he is destroying them. Waterloo University (you've never heard of Waterloo U?) never ran so well to their right.
The last intangible for this overgrown hoser is that balance. Ice skating takes a certain ankle strength and balance, and there's almost no other way to develop it outside of skating from the day you can walk. This solid base leaves the door open for him to have excellent footwork (crucial for pass defenders on the outside), and the aggressive hockey mentality should be put to good use on run plays.
Rams linebacker James Laurinaitis played hockey as a youth in Minnesota and has quickly picked up status as an NFL-quality linebacker.
But back to Reinders.
So how did the Browns find this freaking guy? Will the 49ers adopt a similar approach at any point?
www.onlyincle.com reports that Holmgren has connections to the Waterloo head coach and even offered him a job while he was in Seattle. This type of relationship building shows a team finding its character and the value of an experienced GM.
Baalke is not officially a GM (yet), and he probably wasn't the real head honcho on draft day. Nevertheless, he is in line for a personnel position and could very likely get a promotion. If and when this happens, he should remember to look at outside-the-box options (and gambles) in addition to the tried and true.
Even Bill Walsh handpicked Jeff Garcia out of the CFL. Say what you want about Jeff, but the guy played hard.
Players like Marlon Lucky and Graham Harrell are out there for the picking, even if they only make it as far as the practice squad.
The 49ers are looking good this offseason—real good, actually—but should always keep an eye open for this kind of prospect.