The draft is over. Now for the good stuff: undrafted free agents. This is how most NFL rosters get built, with players who get overlooked or come flawed make their way onto teams.
One point of prolonged consternation during the 49ers’ draft was the lack of a center. If Alex Mack is really retiring, how could the organization eschew the position entirely? They were proactive in supporting their limited offensive line depth, but left center alone. That changed quickly after it ended.
Dohnovan West, C, Arizona State
Among the names that continued to pop up and left folks wondering where he would fall was Arizona State’s Dohnovan West. By the end of the draft, he was left unselected and immediately became one of the premier names on the priority free agent market.
The 49ers reportedly made their move, guaranteeing him a sizable $100,000 plus a $10,000 bonus. That’s the type of money that suggests he was a hot target and has a viable chance of making the roster.
West was a common mock draft target for the 49ers given the uncertainty over Mack’s situation. He was projected to go anywhere from the third round on, surprising many with his fall out of the draft entirely. His smaller frame, lack of elite athleticism — except for tremendous broad jump numbers — and struggle to anchor against more powerful interior rushers likely contributed to that.
This is a move that eases some of the worries over the center position and could potentially provide a long-term option even if Mack returns or if J.C. Tretter is brought in as a replacement.
Jason Poe, C/G, Mercer
Another shot, potentially, at the center position. Kyle Shanahan also talked up the 49ers’ own Jake Brendel, but clearly, the team is looking at some developmental center options, perhaps expecting Mack to return for what could be a final season, or trying to see if they have something internal before signing Tretter.
Jason Poe from Mercer is another addition in that vein.
Why should you be excited about Poe? He is an absolutely elite athlete. He has below-average size, but that hasn’t generally been a disqualifier in the outside zone scheme at center. Mobility is key as long as play strength is not sacrificed.
Poe, clearly, has the athleticism and he is not lacking the strength either. His biggest concerns are obviously the size, but also a lack of technique. He runs hot and is a bruiser in the run game, but is unrefined. That’s the exact sort of player you sign as an undrafted free agent.
Leon O’Neal Jr., S, Texas A&M
As with West, O’Neal Jr. was a popular target for the 49ers, though he was more of a late-round option, given his concerns in coverage.
Still, the 49ers guaranteed him a fair amount, clearly viewing him at least as an option to make the roster via special teams.
O’Neal excelled on special teams in college and has the requisite athleticism and aggression to be an NFL player, but wasn’t reliable in coverage and missed some tackles.
As it currently stands, though, O’Neal’s competition for the strong safety spot is not without reproach.
There’s the coverage-liable Talanoa Hufanga — also a special teams ace — the just-signed George Odum, who is probably the favorite for the job at this point, and who was an All-Pro on special teams a couple years back, and Tarvarius Moore, a freak athlete coming off an Achilles injury. The door is open for any of them.
Tay Martin, WR, Oklahoma State
The Athletic’s Matt Barrows reports San Francisco adding receiver Tay Martin, who is coming off a 1,000-plus receiving yard season at Oklahoma State.
Martin tested generally average athletically, but had an upper echelon 10-yard split at 1.54 second (88th percentile) and above average shuttle and three-cone times, suggesting that he has solid short-area quickness.
He struggled with some drops in his career and doesn’t have that top end speed, but he has that quickness and slippery ability to create space.
Taysir Mack, WR, Pitt
Perr Matt Zenitz of On3Sports, former University of Pittsburgh receiver Taysir Mack will sign with San Francisco.
Mack, similar to Martin, is brutally quick off the line. He tested in the 99th percentile with his 10-yard split at 1.48 seconds, but struggled in the agility drills. That suggests straight-line quickness and less so horizontally. He’s a larger target at close to 6’2″, 200 pounds. His college numbers, with 461 yards and 3 touchdowns in his final season, are relatively unimpressive.
Kevin Atkins, DT, Fresno State
The local California product announced on Twitter that he’d signed with the 49ers.
Atkins, a 6’2″, 314-pound defensive tackle was a five-year player at Fresno State and had an outstanding 2021 campaign. In his final season, he racked up a tied-for-team-high 7.0 sacks and 13.0 tackles for a loss, which was third most on the team.
Jeremiah Gemmel, LB, UNC
Gemmel, a bit more than a 6-foot, 226-pound linebacker, reportedly signed with the 49ers.
In his final year at North Carolina, he had 73 tackles including 6.5 for a loss and a 1.5 sacks en route to a Third Team All-ACC nod.
He got fairly decent guarantees from the team, per Aaron Wilson.
Segun Olubi, LB, San Diego State
Add another linebacker to the list.
Olubi played just two years at San Diego State and is on the smaller side, but the athletic upside is massive. He’s about the same size as Gemmel, at a tick over 6 feet and 225 pounds, but he had some of the more astounding speed numbers at his position.
His 4.45-second 40-yard dash ranks in the 99.2 percentile among all linebackers and his 7-second three-cone drill is in the 83.4 percentile. He played 14 games last season en route to 52 tackles including 2.5 for a loss.
Garrett Walston, TE, North Carolina
Walston is a 6’4″, 241-pound tight end prospect who is decidedly unathletic. He tested poorly in every athletic category before the draft. He had 184 receiving yards and a couple touchdown catches in his final season.
Sam Schlueter, OL, Minnesota
Schlueter is a 6’6″, 309-pound offensive line prospect. He was an All Big-10 Honorable Mention for three-straight years.
Tayler Hawkins, CB/S, San Diego State
Hawkins is a 6-foot, 203-pound safety prospect from San Diego State. He played mostly corner there, but can also be viewed as a safety prospect. He had 62 tackles and a couple interceptions last year.
Qwuantrezz Knight, CB/S, UCLA
Knight is viewed as positionally flexible, but more likely a safety prospect with below average athleticism. He played an absurd amount of years in college, starting in 2016! at Maryland.
His journey is pretty absurd, spending three years with the Terrapins, then one at Kent State in 2019, followed by two years at UCLA.
That said, he’s been a pretty successful tackler in and around the box, finishing with 65 tackles, 8.5 for a loss and 2.5 sacks at UCLA last season.
Jordan Mason, RB, Georgia Tech
Georgia Tech Athletics announced Mason signed with the 49ers. He had a brilliant start to his career, but his production fell off in more recent years. He had 439 rushing yards and one rushing touchdown last season.
Cyrus Habibi-Likio, RB, Boise State
Another player who showed poor athleticism in testing, Habibi-Likio reportedly signed with the 49ers. He was slow and lacked explosion in every testing category.
The former Oregon prospect had his best season with the Ducks in 2019, where he was used as a goal-line runner, scoring 10 rushing touchdowns on 85 attempts and 337 yards. Heh had 374 rushing yards, 2 touchdowns and 213 receiving yards at Boise State last year. His claim to fame is decking a fan.