Which 49ers UDFA has the Best Chance to Make the Final Roster?
Undrafted rookies will have a difficult time making the 49ers’ final roster, because it’s so good this season. The 49ers just went to the Super Bowl.
But one undrafted free agent in particular has a real shot to make the final 53: running back JaMycal Hasty.
1. Kyle Shanahan wants a third-down back.
A third-down back is a receiving specialist, someone who lines up in the backfield on third downs and runs quick angle routes and option routes. Shanahan has been trying to add this type of player to the offense since 2018 -- that’s why the 49ers signed Jerick McKinnon. Jimmy Garoppolo feels most comfortable throwing short passes over the middle, so he would benefit tremendously from a quality third-down back.
2. Jerick McKinnon probably won’t make the team.
McKinnon tore his ACL in 2018 and missed the past two seasons. Has yet to play a down for the 49ers. Every time he has tried to make a comeback, he has suffered a setback after just a couple practices. The 49ers renegotiated McKinnon’s contract this offseason, and now he has zero guaranteed money, meaning they can cut him before the season and pay him nothing. The 49ers surely hope McKinnon will stay healthy and make the team. But if the past two seasons are any indication, he probably won’t stay healthy.
3. Jeff Wilson Jr. isn’t a third-down back.
The top-two running backs on the depth chart are Tevin Coleman and Raheem Mostert. The no. 3 back currently is Wilson, because the 49ers traded Matt Breida to the Dolphins. Wilson is a former undrafted free agent and a quality player -- he scored four touchdowns last season. But he’s not a third-down back. He’s a short-yardage and red-zone specialist. A power back. He’s a solid receiver as well, but not a receiving specialist. If the 49ers envisioned him as their third-down back, they would have given him that role last season. They didn’t.
4. Hasty is a third-down back.
That’s how Baylor used him. He wasn’t Baylor’s featured running back -- he was part of a three-back committee. But of those three backs, he was the receiving specialist. Caught 79 passes during his collegiate career. Hasty runs crisp routes and has terrific hand-eye coordination. Does lots of the things the 49ers hoped McKinnon would do before he got injured.
5. Hasty has more guaranteed money in his contract than Wilson.
If McKinnon gets hurt again, Hasty will compete with Wilson to be the 49ers third-down back. And Hasty is better suited for that role, plus the 49ers are more committed to him. Hasty has $90,000 guaranteed in his contract. Wilson has zero guaranteed money. Meaning the 49ers can cut Wilson Jr. on the final day of the preseason and pay him nothing. Then, if he clears waivers, they can sign him to the practice squad, where he started each of the past two seasons.
Watch out for Hasty during training camp. The third-down back could be his job to lose.