San Francisco 49ers: Which Undrafted Free Agent Could Have the Biggest Impact?


The San Francisco 49ers signed 12 undrafted free agents, but who will last and who will make an impact?

With the draft over and the dust starting to settle, the 49ers have their 90-man roster set. That roster includes 12 undrafted free agents. Inevitably, a good number of that group will be released. So which UDFA could have the biggest impact for the Niners?

Start with a big need for San Francisco: Outside Linebacker. The team didn’t pick up any OLBs in this year’s draft, and this position appears slim on the depth chart. The 49ers recorded a meager 28 sacks last season, fourth worst in the NFL, and opposing quarterbacks had a 98.1 passer rating. Those numbers desperately need a boost in the upcoming season.

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Currently the outside linebackers for the Niners are Aaron Lynch and Ahmad Brooks. Both recorded only 6.5 sacks on the season, and Brooks had more troubling off-field issues that caused him to miss games. Lynch is the most promising player for the position, but there are lingering concerns about his back.

Next on the depth chart are Eli Harold and Corey Lemonier. Harold looks to have a bigger upside here as he has reportedly made substantial strides in the weight room this off season in order to bulk up for the role of OLB. However, neither recorded a sack last season, and both will be expected to show significant improvements if they want a spot at OLB.

These factors give UDFA Jason Fanaika a serious opportunity to be a contender at outside linebacker. The Niners gave him a call during the seventh round to express their interest, but opted for corner Prince Charles Iworah. At Utah, Fanaika played defensive end, recording 50 tackles and four sacks in his 2015 season. While Fanaika will have the added pressure of transitioning to a different position for the Niners, it is a change that he not only welcomed, but wanted to make.

At 278 pounds, weight is one of the main concerns with Fanaika. If he is able to shed the weight he could be a seriously disruptive OLB. At a more athletic weight, his speed and explosiveness will improve, giving him the ability to be an impact player for the 49ers. Fanaika comes in with significant upper body strength and long arms that press pass protectors. He also brings a quality that you can’t teach: character. Out of the UDFA’s on the Niners’ roster, he is certainly one to keep an eye on.

The other UDFA to keep on your radar is Devon Cajuste, a wide receiver from Stanford. There is a possibility that the Niners move him to tight end, but he has the ability to be a serious threat at either position. At 6’4” and 234 pounds, he has great strength and size, and comes with powerful hands capable of bringing down most passes. He runs clean routes and could be deadly in the red zone.

Cajuste does have a couple question marks concerning his ability to get open due to his speed and quickness off the line. With Anquan Boldin almost certainly not returning there is an open spot to fill, and Cajuste will need to find a way to shine against others vying for the spot.

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Players he will be competing against are signees Aaron Burbridge, whom the 49ers acquired in the sixth round of the draft, and Eric Rogers from the CFL. Joining them will be current WR Quinton Patton, Bruce Ellington, DeAndre Smelter, DeAndrew White, Eric Rogers, and Jerome Simpson. With so many names in the race to fill that open WR spot, it will be interesting to watch who joins Torrey Smith on the field.

With many holes in the Niners roster and in the midst of a rebuild, both Fanaika and Cajuste have a great opportunity to compete for a spot. It will be an uphill battle, but if they prove themselves they just may find themselves on that 53-man roster when week one rolls around.