The OTAs ended yesterday and will not be appearing again until June 7. If you failed to enjoy them, you have two and a half weeks to suffer for your thoughtlessness.
Nate Clements tossed $500,000 down the toilet by not attending this four day session, preferring to work out by himself in Arizona. Now that is some serious in your face honcho. The American economy may suck, but it surely hasn’t attached its horny lips to Nate’s butt. Wow. I wonder if Nate will perhaps rue this cavalier gesture should he get waived come final cuts in August and miss out on the $6 million he stands to make in 2010.
While many eager eyes were on the 2010 rookies, two fellows from the bottom end of the 2009 draft were also pushing for roster spots: Ricky Jean Francois and Alex Boone.
Jean Francois is a nasty fellow from Louisiana drafted in the 2009 7th round who was a serious enough talent that he was kept on the roster last year, rather than on the practice squad. He didn’t suit up until the last few games and had zero impact. This year he seems to be pushing for the job of backup to NT Abrayo Franklin, who may or may not be back in 2011. His name sounds kind of wimpy and ill fitting when used in its entirety, so expect this tough guy to eventually end up tagged as merely RJF.
Boone, like Francois, was an immediate fan favorite, but unlike Francois, Boone was not drafted and signed with the 49ers as a UDFA. He was a wild and raw talent with drinking issues and spent the year on the practice squad. He then used the off season for a complete body makeover, going from sponge bob to ripped. During the OTAs he was getting looks at left tackle, as well as his presumed spot at right tackle. The drafting of Anthony Davis seems to close the door on the RT starting position, so it would seem the persons most affected by Boone’s progress would be the tackle backups, Adam Snyder and Barry Sims.
An interesting category of our 2010 draft/FA class was that of speedy little sumbitch. The 49ers have not had this type of player in the past, so its hard to predict how many roster spots are available. There are three candidates, Ted Ginn, Kyle Williams, and LeRoy Vann. All of these diminutive dynamos are vying for the position of punt/kickoff return man. Ginn has the lead going into the OTAs and Training Camp, since he was acquired in a splashy trade with Miami, and has a #1 draft pick pedigree plus three years experience in the league. He could also end up being primarily a slot receiver, leaving the door open for the other two fellows to grab a roster spot as return men.
Williams was a WR drafted in the 6th round and Vann was a UDFA cornerback. It doesn’t seem likely both of these guys will make the roster, so the early lead probably resides with the draft pick, Williams. Vann would then end up on the practice squad, get claimed by another team, and become this year’s recipient of the Kory Sheets Howling Mob award. If Williams shines as a slot receiver, though, and he looked good this week, perhaps all three of these speed burners will make the squad.
Clearly, the competition for roster spots is most acute on the OL and at WR. The OL has been discussed above and in earlier posts, but the battle for WR spots is no less intense. Only the 49er starters Michael Crabtree, who has been quietly sensational this week, and Josh Morgan are assured of roster spots. The #3 WR/slot receiver is truly up for grabs among Ginn, Williams, Brandon Jones, and Jason Hill. The guess here is that Jones and Hill will end up as backups for Crabtree and Morgan and not get any more looks at slot receiver. Hill is in his final contract year and Jones has a better-than-backup contract, making him a likely candidate to be cut.
The remaining WR applicant is Dominique Zeigler, who got some action this week and looked terrific, as usual. The problem for him is that he is a beanstalk and has no role on Special Teams, and the most significant role this addled noggin can think of for him would be Designated Alley Oop in the corner of the end zone guy. His height and awesomely sticky hands might make him an unstoppable force in the red zone. If Jones gets cut, Dominique might stick as a backup to Crabtree or Morgan. Otherwise, I suspect he will not be retained for this singular red zone skill and will, sadly, be cut.