Assessing Every San Francisco 49ers UDFA's Chances of Making Final Roster
General manager Trent Baalke has also rounded up seven undrafted free agents from both powerhouse schools and relative unknowns, per 49ers.com. Undrafted free agents provide exceptional value for teams every year, bringing underrated and overlooked talent with chips on their shoulders.
Most of these players will not survive the final cuts, but recent history has offered hope for the undervalued in San Francisco.
According to David Fucillo of Niners Nation, 11 undrafted free agents have reached the 49ers' active roster over the last four years. In addition, the undrafted ranks have also produced current starters in guard Alex Boone and cornerback Tramaine Brock.
Determining the path to the active roster is not an exact science when you have to take both the player and the current roster into consideration. As seven undrafted free agents battle for spots on the final roster, only a select few will stick around to make an extended appearance in red and gold.
Kory Faulkner, QB, Southern Illinois
The 49ers passed on several higher-profile prospects in favor of Southern Illinois quarterback Kory Faulkner, who will compete for the No. 3 quarterback spot.
The Missouri Valley Conference is a long way from the NFL, but former Salukis running back Brandon Jacobs managed to embark on a solid professional career. Coach Jim Harbaugh has seen reason to believe in Faulkner's transition as well, according to Matt Maiocco of CSN Bay Area:
There was some spread. There was some underneath center,” Harbaugh said of the Southern Illinois offense. “But you’re going to like [Faulkner]. He’s got a good arm. He’s smart. Strong guy. (We) got a good-boned guy -- and tough.
Neither starting signal-caller Colin Kaepernick nor presumed backup Blaine Gabbert will lose sleep over Faulkner's presence. His affordability and roster status offer a unique edge over veteran quarterback McLeod Bethel-Thompson, however, as well as recent signing Josh Johnson.
For the sake of maintaining his talented roster, Harbaugh may find more value in keeping his third quarterback on the practice squad. That will be Faulkner's best shot.
Prediction: Practice squad
Morgan Breslin, LB, USC
Despite spending most of his time on the defensive line at USC, Morgan Breslin is making the transition to linebacker, according to the 49ers roster.
He starred in 2012 with 13 sacks and 19.5 tackles for loss, but a hip injury and hernia surgery slowed him in 2013, according to David Fucillo of Niners Nation. Healthy for just five games in his final season, Breslin managed 4.5 sacks in his limited time on the field.
According to Breslin's combine profile on NFL.com, his height and length aren't particularly ideal for the pro level. However, there is room for growth: "Highly competitive, high-motor, hard-nosed pass rusher who wins with leverage and effort. Has 'tweener traits, but shows a knack to disrupt the backfield, and intensity and relentlessness give him a chance to carve a niche as situational, stand-up rush linebacker."
With linebacker Aldon Smith's status up in the air for the regular season, Breslin's opportunities could be determined by NFL sanctions against the star pass-rusher. Should Smith be out of action for any period of time, Breslin could emerge as a needed depth player with a situational role.
Prediction: Practice squad with final roster potential
Asante Cleveland, TE, Miami
The 49ers will need Miami (Fla.) tight end Asante Cleveland to far surpass his collegiate production to make an impact, even with his intriguing frame at 6'5" and 260 pounds. Over four seasons as a Hurricane, he managed just 14 receptions and one touchdown.
According to Scouts Inc.’s Steve Muench (via Bill Williamson of ESPN.com), Cleveland has shown excellent potential as a blocker with his impressive size. Long arms and big hands could also offer hope for his receiving ability, despite his questionable speed.
Blocking will have to pave Cleveland's initial path to the NFL, however, at least with his given production and a time of 4.88 seconds in the 40-yard dash, per David Fucillo of Niners Nation. A crowded practice squad will most likely leave him as an odd man out who is too long of a project for the win-now 49ers.
Dillon Farrell, G/C, New Mexico
A big frame and positional versatility make New Mexico center Dillon Farrell an interesting prospect, but there's fierce competition brewing on one of the NFL's best offensive lines.
Farrell's scouting combine profile projects the former Lobo as a potential backup at the professional level, mostly for concerns over his strength and technique. His 6'5" frame fills out at 303 pounds after all, offering a notable package on the surface.
Matt Barrows of The Sacramento Bee sees "good size and experience" to make a case for Farrell, but the crowded nature of the position may be too much to overcome.
San Francisco has quite a numbers game on the interior line with veterans Daniel Kilgore, Adam Snyder and Joe Looney already competing for spots. Given the selections of guard Brandon Thomas and center Marcus Martin in the first half of the draft as well, it's tough to see Farrell earning a shot on this roster.
Fouimalo Fonoti, G, Michigan State
Similar to the plight of Farrell, Michigan State guard Fouimalo "Fou" Fonoti will have to make an outstanding case to stick out from the veteran crowd.
He started the final 11 games of his senior season at right tackle for the Spartans but projects as a guard at the pro level, per 49ers.com. At 6'4" and 310 pounds, his size should be better suited on the inside for San Francisco.
Scouts Inc.’s Steve Muench sees a lot of potential in Fonoti (via Bill Williamson of ESPN.com) as a player who may progress well beyond his collegiate production. While his final roster chances are slim, an impressive camp could merit him extra time in the organization.
Projection: Practice squad
James McCray, S, Catawba
Finding a quality highlight reel for safety James "LJ" McCray isn't easy, but his chances of landing on the roster may be better than you think.
Division II Catawba is a few steps removed from the NFL, but McCray's speed should translate against any competition. Per David Fucillo of Niners Nation, his 4.46-second 40-yard dash is hard to ignore for a player who made his mark as a kick returner in college.
As noted by Matt Barrows of The Sacramento Bee, however, special teams coverage may present the best option for McCray to make the roster. Veteran special teams contributors C.J. Spillman, Bubba Ventrone, Dan Skuta and Kassim Osgood are all entering the final years of their contracts.
With reserve safeties Craig Dahl and Spillman both capable on special teams, McCray's chances are still a long shot. Rookie wide receiver Bruce Ellington also brings potential in the return game, limiting McCray's window of opportunity.
Shayne Skov, LB, Stanford
Coach Jim Harbaugh's Stanford roots haven't resulted in many old favorites in San Francisco, but linebacker Shayne Skov is easily the name to know among this class.
Projected by NFLDraftScout.com (via CBS Sports) as a third- or fourth-round pick, Skov surprisingly slipped out of the draft altogether. While NFLDraftScout.com's Rob Rang made note of Skov's torn ACL in 2011, production in his final college season appeared to erase serious doubts:
Terrific instincts and physicality. A tone-setter in the middle, who frequently made big plays at key moments for the Cardinal. Demonstrated more explosiveness in 2013, in his second season removed from a torn ACL. Explodes through holes in the offensive line to make emphatic tackles in the backfield.
Totaling 109 tackles and 5.5 sacks in his senior season, the former Cardinal linebacker appears to fit the mold of the 49ers defense. Eric Galko of Bleacher Report also identified him as the top signing for the 49ers' undrafted class.
However, he won't unseat starting inside 'backers Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman. He likely won't even beat out third-round pick Chris Borland out of Wisconsin.
To make an impact, the Stanford product will have to beat out a veteran in Michael Wilhoite or Nick Moody for a reserve role. Given his playmaking tendencies and intense style, he has the best chance of all the undrafted players to crack the roster.
Prediction: Makes final 53-man roster
Note: All statistics according to Sports-Reference.com, unless otherwise noted.