Analyzing the 49ers undrafted free agents

The San Francisco 49ers haven’t yet officially released the names of their undrafted free agents, so here’s an unofficial list.

Victor Bolden, WR, Oregon State.

Analysis: A slot receiver whose best chance to make the 49ers final roster will come as a kick returner. Ran back 108 kickoffs for 2,420 yards and 3 touchdowns in college.

Outlook: Practice squad.

Kendrick Bourne, WR, Eastern Washington.

Analysis: Slow possession receiver with good hands who can make catches in traffic. Played against weak competition in college and usually faced single coverage because his teammate, Cooper Kupp, a third-round pick by the Rams, drew double coverage.

Outlook: Camp body.

Matt Breida, RB, Georgia Southern.

Analysis: Small running back (195 pounds) who is extremely fast (4.37 40-yard dash). Breida comes from the Sun Belt conference where he gained 3,094 yards in 2014 and 2015 combined. But in 2016, he gained only 646 yards even though he was totally healthy. Needs to put on 10 pounds of muscle to play running back for the 49ers.

Outlook: Practice squad.

K.D. Cannon, WR, Baylor.

Analysis: Deep threat who caught 195 passes for 3,113 yards and 27 touchdowns in three seasons at Baylor, which has a history of producing quality NFL receivers (Kendall Wright, Terrance Williams, Corey Coleman, Josh Gordon, etc.). Cannon is similar to Taylor Gabriel, who made the Cleveland Browns 53-man roster as an undrafted rookie in 2014 when Kyle Shanahan was the offensive coordinator.

Outlook: 53-man roster.

Andrew Eide, OT, BYU.

Analysis: Graduated high school in 2009 — seven years ago. Probably isn’t someone the 49ers are interested in developing.

Outlook: Camp body.

J.P. Flynn, OG, Montana State.

Analysis: Can play guard or tackle. Ran a 5.17 40-yard dash at his Pro Day. Seems to have the athleticism Kyle Shanahan wants from an offensive lineman.

Outlook: Practice squad.

Zach Franklin, CB, Washburn.

Analysis: Smart cornerback who can line up outside or in the slot. Also returned two kickoffs for touchdowns in 2016.

Outlook: Practice squad.

Jimmie Gilbert, DE, Colorado.

Analysis: Edge rusher who recorded 11 sacks in 14 games last season. Needs to add at least 10 pounds of muscle to play in the NFL.

Outlook: Practice squad.

Malik Golden, S, Penn State.

Analysis: Solid athlete who can play safety or cornerback. Intercepted just two passes the past two seasons. Will compete for a spot on the practice squad.

Outlook: Camp body.

Evan Goodman, OL,  Arizona State.

Analysis: Started at left tackle for two seasons in a major conference. Probably lacks the speed to play in Kyle Shanahan’s outside zone-running scheme.

Outlook: Camp body.

Cole Hikutini, TE, Louisville.

Analysis: Former wide receiver who caught 50 passes and scored 8 touchdowns last season. Ran a slow 40-yard dash (4.85) at his Pro Day, but his knee was injured. Has better hands and runs better routes than the Niners No. 1 and No. 2 tight ends last season — Vance McDonald and Blake Bell. Hikutini has a chance to make the final roster if the 49ers trade McDonald before the season starts.

Outlook: Practice squad.

Lorenzo Jerome, FS, St. Francis.

Analysis: Subpar athlete with terrific football instincts. Intercepted 18 passes in college and averaged 27.2 yards per kick return. Will compete with Don Jones to be the backup free safety.

Outlook: Practice squad.

Erik Magnuson, OL, Michigan.

Analysis: All-Big-10 right tackle in 2016. Excellent college player who probably lacks the speed to play in Shanahan’s offense.

Outlook: Camp body.

Tyler McCloskey, FB, Houston.

Analysis: Played tight end the past two seasons and caught 37 passes. Will play fullback for the 49ers because they need two for training camp.

Outlook: Camp body.

Nick Mullens, QB, Southern Mississippi.

Analysis: Small quarterback with a weak arm whose best attribute is his play-action fakes. The Niners signed him because they need four quarterbacks for training camp.

Outlook: Camp body.

Donavin Newsom, LB, Missouri.

Analysis: Received a sixth-round grade from NFL Draft analyst Tony Pauline, who called Newsom “one of the more underrated linebackers in the draft.” Newsom has sideline-to-sideline speed (4.54 40-yard dash), which Pete-Carroll-style coaches typically want from their middle linebackers.

Outlook: Practice squad.

Noble Nwachukwu, DE, West Virginia.

Analysis: Strong D-lineman who can play 4-, 5- or 6-technique on base downs and rush from the interior or passing downs.

Outlook: Practice squad.

Bret Treadway, OG, Lamar.

Analysis: Can play guard or center. Ran a 5.08 40-yard dash, which is a very fast time for an offensive lineman.

Outlook: Practice squad.

Darrell Williams Jr. OL, Western Kentucky.

Analysis: Played right guard and right tackle in college. Probably isn’t fast enough to play for Shanahan.

Outlook: Camp body.

This article has 91 Comments

  1. Cole Hikutini has a snow balls chance in hell of making it to the practice squad. Better give him the Baalke PUP treatment….

      1. Grant

        NO ! We’ve already cut, traded,or just released a pretty decent complete team…Hold onto MacDonald and let go of Celek…he dropped a bunch last season, and he hasn’t been much of a blocker compared to VMD

    1. Razor, I agree with you. If they put this guy on practice Squad he will be picked up by another team.

  2. We’ve got lots of buzz about Cannon, but 32 teams each passed on him 7 times……
    If he’s the next Cliff Branch, then great, but I’m thinking Missouri for now.

    1. I have to say I was absolutely shocked Cannon wasn’t drafted. He was a dynamite WR when he actually was playing with a healthy QB – which wasn’t often. Cannon was a consensus Freshman All-American and a top 50 Blue Chip recruit in high school. The kid is a really good WR. It’s hard to say how he’ll translate to the pros since Baylor’s play for him was basically for the QB to throw it as far as he could and let Cannon outrun everybody to catch the ball. I’m pretty excited to see what Shanahan can do with him in that offense.

    1. Guard or center. And, yes, probably the practice squad. What I found interesting in the signing is that he’s only been on the offensive side of the ball for one year having converted from DL. Kind of like Balducci last year. Only he did as a senior in college, not an NFL rookie.

      Credit to him he was good enough to get some props and sign for his shot at the brass ring despite being so inexperienced.

  3. For Cannon to make the 53 he will likely need to beat out Aldrick Robinson. Doubt that happens.

    I think it is possible one of the OL make the 53. They have signed a lot of vets to compete for spots but I doubt they keep vets two deep. The 9th OL (assuming they keep that many on the 53) will probably be a young guy, and currently the only young guy that isn’t a returning starter of any note other than the UDFAs is Theus.

      1. Would be an interesting camp battle. Got a glimpse of Smelter in final game last year. Looked quicker than I anticipated. He said he dropped a few lbs from his college days.

      2. That would leave the team with just 1 WR over 5’10” in Garcon. I think they will want another big body WR to back him up. Cannon is more likely to be competing with Robinson to be Goodwin’s backup.

          1. My bad, Cannon is a giant… :-P The way Cannon plays is best suited to the same role Goodwin will have. He will be competing to be Goodwin’s backup.

            I agree they have no allegiance to Smelter. I didn’t say Smelter would be the backup. He might be, but I assume it will be a competition for that spot between Smelter and Burbridge, plus a potential roster cut from another team that gets added.

              1. I think more importantly it will go to a possession type receiver for that 6th spot as a backup to Garcon. Assuming they keep 6.

              2. Smelter has the advantage in my opinion due to time spent in the NFL strength and conditioning program.

              1. I wrong about that :) But I was right that Zach Cunningham would be on the board when the Raiders picked in the second round. Scooter and Rocket didn’t believe me.

              2. At least you didn’t second guess yourself over him like you did last year with Dion Jones.

              3. True enough. Cunningham was a steal in the second. I thought he’d be more highly regarded than that.

              4. I’m surprised Burbridge wasn’t cut last year. He struggled to get open against man coverage in college. I always thought Cajuste was a better prospect though I didn’t think either one was even a decent prospect.

        1. I don’t think height will be much of an issue. The players they signed are all 6 foot or less and they just drafted another small one. Cannon is right in line with the others they’ve added as far as size goes.

          1. That would go against what Shanahan has looked for in the past. Even at Cleveland with the mighty mites he had Miles Austin backed up by Marlon Moore (and later Josh Gordon once his suspension ended).

            1. Basically he likes to have one bigger possession WR (e.g. Garcon). And seems unlikely he won’t have a backup for him in case of injury.

              1. They’ve had all offseason and the draft to add a bigger WR and haven’t. They also just cut one of the bigger ones on the roster, so it doesn’t appear it’s a priority.

              2. So seems a reasonable chance Smelter or Burbridge make the roster. Unless Shanahan has decided to go against his usual MO.

              3. I don’t think so. If they keep 5 neither one has a chance, if they keep 6 I could see a kid like Cannon being kept over one of them. Of the two I’d say Burbridge has the best chance to stick, but he’ll have to be a lot better than he was last season.

              1. Austin was the possession type WR on the Browns O. And Moore was his backup (actually they went through a few during the year. LaRon Byrd was also a backup for a while, and Gordon was the starter when not suspended). While Moore isn’t huge, his role was to play as that ‘bigger’ possession WR.

              2. Austin was a big play deep threat before he went to Cleveland. If anything it shows Shanny is willing to use players in positions they didn’t occupy before. I don’t think he has a set body type or style of WR he prefers based on his history.

              3. Well, if that is your takeaway, fair enough.

                Anyway, I will be surprised if they take 1 WR over 6’0″ and 5 WRs under 6’0″ into the season. Only way they take 1 WR over 6’0″ into the season is if they only go with 5 WRs. In which case Cannon will still be competing with Robinson for a roster spot.

              4. I don’t think height really matters. Garcon, Kerley and Taylor are possession receivers.

              5. Height matters in terms of where they typically line up.

                The slot receiver will indeed also be a possession type WR. Like Andrew Hawkins was used for the Browns in 2014. That will be Kerley’s role, most likely backed up by Taylor. But one of the outside guys will be a bigger possession type WR too (Garcon this year, was Austin for the Browns in 2014).

              6. Three possession receivers and three deep threats. That will be the break down.

              7. Y is the tight end. Garcon is the X and Robinson is the backup X, just like he was in Atlanta.

              8. Sorry, meant X, Z and slot.

                When Robinson played X he had a big WR opposite him. Either Josh Morgan or Leonard Hankerson (at Redskins) or Julio Jones (Falcons).

                If the 49ers go with just one big WR it will be a departure from what Shanahan has done in the past. Not impossible of course, but history seems to suggest he likes to have at least one bigger WR on the field.

          2. Helter Smelter is an Uber-Athlete, with fantastic eye hand coordination. The fact that he’s 6′-2″ 225lbs isn’t going to work against him if that’s what you’re suggesting. He’s tough, smart and I really like his chances. Stay tuned….

            1. Smelter hasn’t shown anything yet. Size is great but you have to be able to use it and he’s as big an unknown as the day they drafted him. I don’t think he makes it.

              1. Smelter hasn’t shown anything yet.

                Sure did. 23 yard reception against the Seahawks week 17, his only target. I thought at the time it may be a precursor for things to come.

                Size is great but you have to be able to use it and he’s as big an unknown as the day they drafted him.

                Helter Smelter knows how to use his size. Not sure where you’re getting that, and he hasn’t shown much due to injury.

              2. Razor you sound like an infomercial sometimes :) One catch in week 17 is not going to get him a spot on this roster. He’ll have to show he can stay healthy and make plays. So far he has not done that and he was a raw prospect coming out of College as it was.

            2. I agree. I think Smelter might surprise a few people. I could see Garcon, Kerley, Goodwin, Robinson, Cannon, and Smelter. I always liked Ellington, but he just can’t stay healthy.

    1. Or beat Goodwin.
      I agree there probably two spots for Goodwin, Aldrick and Cannon, unless one of them Excel at STs and justify opening another roster spot for WRs.

      I just am not so sure Goodwin is that safe. It is his job to lose, clearly, but to keep it he’s got to produce, something he rarely did in his NFL career (or college).

  4. I agree with Grant’s assessment of KD Cannon. He could help stretch the field.

    I also think Lorenzo Jerome may make the squad if a player goes down due to injury, and they use him for kick offs.

    Since they did not draft a safety, Malik Golden also has a chance.

  5. Jimmie Gilbert is known as the human slinky…

    Jimmie Gilbert

    STRENGTHS … Athletic, long-levered rusher who understands how to administer his length. Often able to land first punch and keep himself clean against tackles when setting edge. Can range as tackler. Fluid when asked to drop into space. Fires into pass rush with rare stride length to challenge the edge. Uses effective arm over on inside moves. Has foot quickness to shoot gaps. Human slinky with exceptional flexibility in hips and upper body to flip around the edge of blockers. Big closing burst to quarterback. Keeps feet moving through a tackle’s initial punch. Strip-sack specialist looks to attack throwing arm when possible. Forced six fumbles this year alone. Athletic bloodlines with family full of college basketball players.

  6. Another invitee to rookie camp…?

    Ole Miss DB Tony Conner has reportedly received an invitation to attend rookie minicamp with the San Francisco 49ers.

    The former Rebel was not selected in the 2017 NFL Draft. However, he will get an opportunity to try out with the 49ers this weekend, according to the Clarion-Ledger’s Antonio Morales.

    Tony Conner tells me he’s received an invite to the San Francisco 49ers’ rookie camp, which is Friday through Sunday. He flies out Thursday.

    Conner played in 11 games for the Rebels last season. He had 41 tackles, 3.5 TFL and 5 passes defended. He’ll join a former Ole Miss teammate at San Francisco’s minicamp: DT D.J. Jones.

    1. Shanahan said on KNBR today during rookie minicamp they will have drafted players, RFAs and about 40 unsigned guys for a try-out.

      KS says he’s found found diamonds in the rough from past tryouts. He holds them every year.

      When they say they are about competition, they’re not kidding.

  7. At WR…

    Garcon, Goodwin, Kerley, Robinson, Taylor
    Niners would love to find a 6’3 220lb type along the way, that wont be Smelter

    I predict it isnt till next year, and T.Pryor who should have some good chemistry with Cousins by then, follows him to SF., lots of other talent that will hit free agency if Pryor wants to stay on east coast

  8. Too early to predict anything about who makes what part of the team. I predict the 6 fastest, and best route running WR’s will make the team. I am rooting for K.D. Cannon, as he has all the tools to make the 53 man roster, regardless of his size – speed kills, baby!!! Go Niners!!!

    Excellent article, Grant!

  9. I think Cannon, Hikutini & Jerome make the 53-man roster. WRT Hikutini, it doesn’t matter if they trade McDonald or not, both Celek & Bell are expendable. Cannon is a deep threat with more size than Goodwin or Robinson. Jerome is too good of a football player not to be on the roster…especially with Reid in the final year of his contract.

    1. I’ll be honest, I like Kittle better than the guy the Browns selected in Round 1. And while TE is a very difficult position to learn, only QB harder, I feel that he has a very good chance of starting by mid-season, if not earlier.

      Pro-set offense. Is a good blocker for a college TE. Shockingly under-utilized in the passing game at Iowa but performed well when used.

      Does have some common/normal rookie issues — Needs to get a little heavier and stronger. Needs to polish up his route running and refine his blocking.

      But he’s not some 11+% pass-dropper who can’t block.

  10. Looks about right Grant, but Cole Hikutini & Matt Breida, will likely be claimed off waivers, I’m pretty sure of that.

    Lot’s of exciting camp battles ahead this year. Can’t wait to read your reports Grant!

      1. I don’t think you’ll get a draft pick for VMac, and cutting him would incur a $4 million cap hit. If they wait to cut him next year prior to April 1, I think it’s only $2 million….

        1. I’m no particular VMac fan, but he is a 26yo 2nd round draft pick signed through 2021 for only $900k a year for the acquiring team, including $150k/yr workout bonus. The 49ers would bite it hard, having already paid that SB, but it’s pretty attractive for an acquiring team.

          1. Oops, I’m way off on that. I was just looking at bonuses. Looks like he would cost an acquiring team $2.765m next year, and $4.6m in 2018.

      2. It’s possible. I wouldn’t be shocked if that happened. They’re obviously not sold on McDonald.

  11. The Jets didn’t wait long to claim wide receiver KD Cannon after he was released by the Niners. What was the skinny on him?

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