Undrafted 49ers rookies enter biggest week of their football lives


Undrafted 49ers rookies enter biggest week of their football lives

The 49ers, like all NFL teams, are required to trim their 90-man roster to the regular-season limit of 53 players just two days after the final exhibition game on Thursday night.

Some will receive great news – a spot on the team to open the regular season. Many more will receive bad news but with an optimistic twist – a spot on the 10-player practice squad.

And many others – some 800 players around the NFL – will be dealt a devastating blow. It will be the end of the dream or playing professional football at the highest level.

The 49ers have 14 undrafted rookies who are fighting for their careers. Some have distinguished themselves and will remain with the 49ers in some capacity. Still, for everyone who is in a training camp for the first time, this is a stressful week as their immediate futures are determined.

On the latest edition of the 49ers Insider Podcast on NBC Sports Bay Area, we catch up with six undrafted rookies who enter the biggest few days of their football lives:

--Erik Magnuson (Michigan) has played very well in the first three exhibition games. His ability to move inside and play both guard spots, as well as center, could make him a valuable commodity.

Said Magnuson: “Even to this day, although I’ve become more comfortable in the spot I’m at, and kind of understanding the situation I’m in, I still have that disappointment in the back of my mind and I think that still helps to push me on days that I don’t necessarily want to be out here and do things. I don’t think I’ll ever come to terms with not being drafted.”

--The 49ers were not alone in their pursuit of running back Matt Breida (Georgia Southern) as an undrafted rookie. Breida has outperformed draft pick Joe Williams and appears to be a lock to make the team.

“Coach (Kyle) Shanahan always says, ‘Control what you can control,’ ” Breida said. “The only thing I can control is going out there and doing what I do every day, that’s compete and showing what I can do.

“When it’s all said and done that’s between (general manager) John Lynch and the head coach and those guys. I just hope I’ll be a part of this team.”

--Safety Lorenzo Jerome (St. Francis) got a lot of opportunities with the first-team defense in training camp due to injuries to Jimmie Ward and Jaquiski Tartt. To contribute during the regular season, he has to improve his play on special teams.

“My mindset is to work my behind off on special teams,” Jerome said. “It was a disappointment last week that I didn’t work my tail off on special teams. I still have to prove myself. I haven’t made the team, yet. I have to grind and work hard.”

--Victor Bolden (Oregon State) distinguished himself among a promising group of young wide receivers with a 104-yard kickoff return against the Denver Broncos in the second exhibition game.

“I think that definitely helped my chances of making the team,” Bolden said. “I just have to go out here and continue to stay consistent and take advantage of every opportunity I get. I’m getting plenty of opportunities out there, so I got to make sure I’m on my assignment and getting my job done.”

--Cole Hikutini (Louisville) finds himself in a crowded competition at tight end among draft pick George Kittle and veterans Vance McDonald, Logan Paulsen, Garrett Celek and Blake Bell.

“Definitely, it was discouraging (to not get drafted),” Hikutini said. “But you just got to go with how the cards are dealt, so I’m happy to here and (trying) to take advantage of the opportunity.”

--Tyler McCloskey (Houston) was a tight end in college but made the conversion to fullback, where he is learning behind Kyle Juszczyk, whom the 49ers made the highest-paid player in the NFL at the position during free agency.

In addition to the stress that comes with the end of the preseason, McCloskey is also concerned about the massive flooding in his hometown of Houston.

“You just try to compartmentalize,” McCloskey said. “I had the benefit of knowing my family was safe and all my friends were safe. But I’m certainly concerned for the city I grew up in, the city that I love. I know people down there are very capable of handling what’s going on.

“This will be a big game for me. I don’t know what the reps will be, but I’ll play a lot and I’ll hopefully get to show what I can do and that I belong and just take it one day at a time and do everything I can to put myself in the best position.”

Roger Craig, Terrell Owens, John Lynch among Hall of Fame semifinalists


Roger Craig, Terrell Owens, John Lynch among Hall of Fame semifinalists

Former 49ers running back Roger Craig, in his final year on the modern-era ballot, is a semifinalist for the Pro Football Hall of Fame for the 10th consecutive year.

Craig is among 27 semifinalists announced for the Class of 2018. The list includes six first-year eligible candidates and four other players who have been eligible previously but are semifinalists for the first time.

Wide receiver Terrell Owens and safety John Lynch, currently 49ers general manager, are among the return semifinalists. Lynch was among the final 10 players last year, while Owens made it to the top 15.

The list of first-year eligible semifinalists includes wide receiver Randy Moss, defensive back Ronde Barber, guard Steve Hutchinson, linebackers Ray Lewis and Brian Urlacher, and defensive lineman Richard Seymour.

The four previously-eligible players who are semifinalists for the first time are safety LeRoy Butler, defensive ends Leslie O’Neal and Simeon Rice, and cornerback Everson Walls.

In January, the list of modern-era candidates will be trimmed to 15 individuals. There will be a total of 18 finalists, including contributor finalist Bobby Beathard and seniors finalists Robert Brazile and Jerry Kramer. Hall of Fame rules stipulate from four to eight new members will be selected every year.

Beathard, Brazile and Kramer will be voted on separately and, like all other finalists, must receive 80-percent approval from the full selection committee at the annual selection meeting on Feb. 3, 2018 in Minneapolis, the day before Super Bowl LII.

Craig's teams made it to the playoffs in each of his 11 NFL seasons, including his first eight years with the 49ers. In 1985, he became the first player in NFL history with 1,000 yards rushing and 1,000 yards receiving in the same season.

Owens, who played his first eight seasons with the 49ers, was a first-team All-Pro performer six times. He ranks second all-time in receiving yards (15,934) and third with 153 receiving touchdowns.

Lynch, a hard-hitting safety with Tampa Bay and Denver, was selected to nine Pro Bowls in his 15-year career. He recorded 26 interceptions, forced 16 fumbles and recovered nine in his career.

Steve Atwater, S – 1989-1998 Denver Broncos, 1999 New York Jets | (Times as a Semifinalist: 7 – 2012-18)
Ronde Barber, CB/S – 1997-2012 Tampa Bay Buccaneers | (Times as a Semifinalist: 1 – 2018)
Tony Boselli, T – 1995-2001 Jacksonville Jaguars, 2002 Houston Texans (injured reserve) | (Times as a Semifinalist: 3 – 2016-18)
Isaac Bruce, WR – 1994-2007 Los Angeles/St. Louis Rams, 2008-09 San Francisco 49ers | (Times as a Semifinalist: 4 – 2015-18)
LeRoy Butler, S – 1990-2001 Green Bay Packers | (Times as a Semifinalist: 1 – 2018)
Don Coryell, Coach – 1973-77 St. Louis Cardinals, 1978-1986 San Diego Chargers | (Times as a Semifinalist: 10 – 2005, 2010-18)
Roger Craig, RB – 1983-1990 San Francisco 49ers, 1991 Los Angeles Raiders, 1992-93 Minnesota Vikings | (Times as a Semifinalist: 10 – 2009-18)
Brian Dawkins, S – 1996-2008 Philadelphia Eagles, 2009-2011 Denver Broncos | (Times as a Semifinalist: 2 – 2017-18)
Alan Faneca, G – 1998-2007 Pittsburgh Steelers, 2008-09 New York Jets, 2010 Arizona Cardinals | (Times as a Semifinalist: 3 – 2016-18)
Torry Holt, WR – 1999-2008 St. Louis Rams, 2009 Jacksonville Jaguars | (Times as a Semifinalist: 4 – 2015-18)
Steve Hutchinson, G – 2001-05 Seattle Seahawks, 2006-2011 Minnesota Vikings, 2012 Tennessee Titans | (Times as a Semifinalist: 1 – 2018)
Joe Jacoby, T – 1981-1993 Washington Redskins | (Times as a Semifinalist: 8 – 2005, 2008, 2013-18)
Edgerrin James, RB – 1999-2005 Indianapolis Colts, 2006-08 Arizona Cardinals, 2009 Seattle Seahawks | (Times as a Semifinalist: 4 – 2015-18)
Jimmy Johnson, Coach – 1989-1993 Dallas Cowboys, 1996-99 Miami Dolphins | (Times as a Semifinalist: 5 – 2014-18)
Ty Law, CB – 1995-2004 New England Patriots, 2005, 2008 New York Jets, 2006-07 Kansas City Chiefs, 2009 Denver Broncos | (Times as a Semifinalist: 4 – 2015-18)
Ray Lewis, LB – 1996-2012 Baltimore Ravens | (Times as a Semifinalist: 1 – 2018)
John Lynch, FS – 1993-2003 Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 2004-07 Denver Broncos | (Times as a Semifinalist: 6 – 2013-18)
Kevin Mawae, C/G – 1994-97 Seattle Seahawks, 1998-2005 New York Jets, 2006-09 Tennessee Titans | (Times as a Semifinalist: 4 – 2015-18)
Karl Mecklenburg, LB – 1983-1994 Denver Broncos | (Times as a Semifinalist: 7 – 2012-18)
Randy Moss, WR – 1998-2004, 2010 Minnesota Vikings, 2005-06 Oakland Raiders, 2007-2010 New England Patriots, 2010 Tennessee Titans, 2012 San Francisco 49ers | (Times as a Semifinalist: 1 – 2018)
Leslie O'Neal, DE – 1986, 1988-1995 San Diego Chargers, 1996-1997 St. Louis Rams, 1998-1999 Kansas City Chiefs | (Times as a Semifinalist: 1 – 2018)
Terrell Owens, WR – 1996-2003 San Francisco 49ers, 2004-05 Philadelphia Eagles, 2006-08 Dallas Cowboys, 2009 Buffalo Bills, 2010 Cincinnati Bengals | (Times as a Semifinalist: 3 – 2016-18)
Simeon Rice, DE – 1996-2000 Arizona Cardinals, 2001-06 Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 2007 Denver Broncos, 2007 Indianapolis Colts | (Times as a Semifinalist: 1 – 2018)
Richard Seymour, DE/DT – 2001-08 New England Patriots, 2009-2012 Oakland Raiders | (Times as a Semifinalist: 1 – 2018)
Brian Urlacher, LB – 2000-2012 Chicago Bears | (Times as a Semifinalist: 1 – 2018)
Everson Walls, CB – 1981-89 Dallas Cowboys, 1990-92 New York Giants, 1992-93 Cleveland Browns | (Times as a Semifinalist: 1 – 2018)
Hines Ward, WR – 1998-2011 Pittsburgh Steelers | (Times as a Semifinalist: 2 – 2017-18)

EDITOR'S NOTE: Matt Maiocco of NBC Sports Bay Area is one of 48 members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame Selection Committee.

John Lynch: Eventually, Garoppolo 'is going to be our guy'


John Lynch: Eventually, Garoppolo 'is going to be our guy'

SANTA CLARA – General manager John Lynch came close Tuesday to announcing which quarterback will start for the 49ers this week.

But the official announcement that rookie C.J. Beathard will start Sunday against the Seattle Seahawks will have to come from coach Kyle Shanahan, he said.

“C.J. (Beathard) played extremely well against the Giants, and that’s likely,” Lynch told reporters at Levi’s Stadium. “But I’ll let Kyle speak to that.”

Lynch reiterated that they want to give newly acquired Jimmy Garoppolo the best chance to succeed. Garoppolo spent part of the 49ers' bye week learning the basics of the offensive system in meetings with quarterbacks coach Rich Scangarello. Garoppolo also met one-on-one with Shanahan.

Beathard had his best game as a pro on Nov. 12, before the bye week, as he threw for 288 yards and two touchdowns in a 31-21 victory over the New York Giants. Garoppolo arrived in Santa Clara on Oct. 31 in a trade with the New England Patriots.

Lynch said he feels Garoppolo “is going to be our guy,” so the organization does not feel any urgency to rush him onto the field. In fact, Lynch sounded as if the 49ers are not placing a high priority on spending big on the quarterback position with Garoppolo and Beathard on the team.

"You still study every position, but we feel pretty good about where our quarterback room is,” Lynch said.