Free agency is always an exciting period in the football season. It’s not quite the same as being able to see our favorite teams and players out on the field, but the news of new players arriving at our favorite teams makes us look forward to seeing what they can do when they get the chance to go out and play ball.
The big-names moves are always the ones that get the most attention from the press, but often it’s the lesser-spotted moves that end up being the smarter ones. That’s why it’s always worth taking a closer look at the rookies that your team offers a chance to.
For the San Francisco 49ers, it looks like rookies and free agents are going to have a big part to play in the season ahead. They’ve picked up no less than nine of them in the last week, and all of them have something unique to bring to the team.
Not all of them will become stars – and some of them will doubtless end up saying goodbye to San Francisco just as quickly as they’ve said hello – but at least one or two stand a chance of staying the distance and establishing themselves as high-profile performers in the seasons to come.
Having great players is only one aspect of having a great team. The rest of it comes through a combination of luck and judgment from the team’s coach in finding the best way for them to play together. It’s like having an online slots game, where it doesn’t matter how many valuable symbols you have on your reels if you can’t make them line up in the right formation to give you a win.
In fact, that’s more or less the whole story of the popular Pigskin Payout game you’ll find at many online slots websites! Just as there are always winners and losers when it comes to new online slots, there are also winners and losers in football – and of those nine rookies, here are the five who we think to stand the best chance of long-term success.
This is probably the most curious of all the 49ers rookie acquisitions. The team has already drafted Jauan Jennings and Brandon Aiyuk as receivers, so there wasn’t an obvious hole to fill in the squad, and yet Chris Finke has been drafted anyway. That late call was probably a huge relief to the man known to his peers as the ‘slippery fox’ because he’s so hard to tackle and pin down.
He’s been a big hit at Notre Dame and finished his four-year career there with over 1200 receiving yards. Throw in the fact that he has a forty-inch vertical leap, and you’re looking at quite an athlete. That probably explains why he’s been handed a $95,000 contract. For someone who didn’t get a call from anyone during the formal draft, that’s a huge deal. Someone at the 49ers clearly rates him highly.
Josh Hokit could have been a wrestler if he hadn’t decided to focus on football, so the 49ers will be hoping that WWE’s loss turns out to be their gain. The Fresno State fullback appeared in 51 games during his four years there, but only 8 of those appearances were starts.
That suggests that Fresno didn’t see him as an out-and-out star, so perhaps the 49ers management have seen something in him that everyone else has missed. The low number of starts didn’t stop him from being named Fresno Bee athlete of the year, and something about his presence and maturity tells us that he might turn out to be a dark horse for a regular ole. Hokit is a late developer in football terms, but late is better than never.
Let’s face it, you can never have too many good quarterbacks – and all the statistics tell us that North Central’s Broc Rutter has everything it takes to become a very good quarterback indeed. This is a man with a point to prove. He broke multiple records at North Central College, and setting an NCAA Division 3 record in career passing yards was only one of them. NCC secured their first-ever national championship during Rutter’s tenure, and he was a major factor in making that happen.
Division 3 players are often overlooked, but Rutter was so determined to make it that he went to Pro Days at Northwestern and Northern Illinois to demonstrate his skills in person. It didn’t land him a position during the three-day draft, but it’s brought him to the dance in San Francisco. He’s happy, the team’s happy, and as a combination, they could achieve great things.
The 49ers have already had success in the past when it comes to signing undrafted rookie cornerbacks. That’s how Emmanuel Moseley started his career. They must be hoping that lightning strikes twice for them with the acquisition of Missouri’s DeMarkus Acy.
At six feet tall and weighing almost two hundred pounds, Acy is a powerhouse who consistently runs 4.4s. By 49ers standards, he’s still a little shorter than the average cornerback, but height isn’t everything, and he more than makes up for it in size and speed. If Moseley is willing to take Acy under his wing and show him the ropes, he could be a great ‘get.’
J Jones is a great nose tackle when he’s available to play. Sadly for him and the 49ers, he isn’t available to play anything like as often as the team wants and needs him to be. For a variety of reasons, he’s been forced to sit out 18 games during the past three seasons, and only a Lazarus-style recovery would see him offered a new deal when his current one expires in 2021.
By that time, Darrion Daniels might have made him obsolete. Daniels will have been briefed that he’s an understudy to Jones, but if Jones can’t make dates, Daniels will be the rookie stepping into the breach. It’s an incredible opportunity for him, and it’s going to be down to him to seize it. His accomplishments at Nebraska suggest that he’s up to the task.
In highlighting these players, we’ve skipped over Jonas Griffith, Chase Harrell, Jamcyal Hasty, and Jared Mayden. That leaves us wide open to having egg on our faces when the season is over. Everyone loves a surprise, though, and so long as whoever’s on the field does the business for the 49ers, we don’t mind being wrong!