San Francisco 49ers: Is Kory Sheets the One that Got Away?

Jeff MedinaContributor IMarch 12, 2010

SANTA CLARA, CA - AUGUST 04:  Kory Sheets #30 looks on during the 49ers training camp at their practice facilities on August 4, 2009 in Santa Clara, California.  (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)
Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

C.J. Spiller. 

Unless you've been on another planet for the past three months, you know that he's the guy that Niners fans have been pining for in the upcoming 2010 NFL Draft. 

The love for Spiller ranges from the cautious (we could take him), to the convinced (we should take him), to the fanatical (we have to get this guy!).  

The argument for Spiller that is most commonly given: he addresses an immediate need for a quick playmaker that can also contribute in the return game. Spiller definitely fits the bill, and his success in college leads those same supporters to justify using a coveted first-round pick on the him.

The question is, did we already have that guy in camp last year - and let him get away? 

The answer: a resounding maybe.

Kory Sheets, a RB from Purdue, was brought into camp last year by the Niners as an undrafted free agent. 

Sheets was coming off a solid senior campaign that upon closer inspection wasn't that different from Spiller's statistically: In his senior year, Sheets ran for 1,131 yards on 234 carries (4.8 avg), scoring 16 touchdowns a single season school record at Purdue. In addition, he had 37 receptions for 253 yards and a score.

In C.J.'s senior year, he produced 1,212 yards on 216 attempts (5.6 avg), totaling 12 touchdowns. As a receiver, Spiller had 36 catches for 503 yards and four touchdowns.

The big difference, of course, is in the return game, where Spiller took four kickoffs and one punt return to the house. Sheets, on the other hand, was used sparingly in the return game, averaging about 18 yards on 14 kick returns.

Do I think that Kory Sheets is as good as C.J. Spiller? In a word, no.

Do I think he's close? As a RB, maybe. On special teams, no. 

Do I think that Sheets has the ability to fill the role that we want Spiller to fill? Yes, I do. He wouldn't be as good, but considering the price of both (first round pick vs unrestricted free agent) I'd be willing to accept that.   

The problem is, Sheets was assigned to the practice squad last year (after a very impressive preseason) in favor of Michael Robinson. He was subsequently signed by Bill Parcels and added to the Miami Dolphin's 53-man roster, where he remains today.

Again, I'm not going to argue that he's as good as C.J. Spiller (or even close) but I would have liked to have seen what he could have done in that role last year before deciding if we should spend a first-round pick on a part-time RB/return specialist this year.

At the very least, I would have liked to have seen Kory Sheets on the field as a 49er last year during the regular season. It seems to me that he deserved as much after his early success and glimpses of potential in camp and in the preseason.

Only time will tell, but it's quite possible that the speedy back/return man that we so clearly needed last year may have already been on the team.

And we let him go.  


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