49ers

Receiving praise, 49ers' rookie QB Driskel could be special

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Receiving praise, 49ers' rookie QB Driskel could be special

SANTA CLARA -– Rookie quarterback Jeff Driskel took advantage of third-team practice snaps during the offseason program and gave the 49ers a bonus, as well.

Not only did Driskel impress the coaching staff at his natural position after arriving in the offseason program as a sixth-round draft pick, he also showed a willingness to help out on special teams.

“I think he’s done a really nice job,” 49ers coach Chip Kelly said. “He’s really intelligent. (He) picked things up conceptually very quickly. (He) was exposed to a couple of systems because he was at Florida and then Louisiana Tech.

“I think he’s already been exposed to multiple systems at the college level, so we’ve been impressed with him. He’s very athletic. I think he was the fastest quarterback at the combine. He’s big. He’s got a good arm.”

Driskel’s size (6 foot 4, 234 pounds) and speed (4.56 seconds in the 40-yard dash) made him a candidate to get practice as a personal protector on the 49ers’ punt team. Special teams coordinator Swinton said it’s possible the 49ers could run their standard offensive plays out of punt formation with Driskel on the field, lined up in front of punter Bradley Pinion.

[RELATED: Chip Kelly transcript: 'We've been impressed' with Driskel]

“He’s a guy that’s athletic,” Swinton said. “He’s a guy that when he was at Florida, you saw him run all over. It comes down to a 53-man roster and if you do carry a guy like that, you just look at numbers.

“For me, I’m playing the numbers game. I try to squeeze every little bit out of it. You have a guy like Thad Lewis, when I had him as a rookie, Thad will tell you he covered every kick for us on the practice squad. So if you have a quarterback that can do that, it pays dividends for us.”

Kelly said the thought of Driskel seeing some action on special teams was a topic that was discussed even before the 49ers drafted him.

“He’s just a football player,” Kelly said. “He just wants to play football and whatever he can do to make a team, he’s going to try to do it.”

While Driskel showed plenty of promise at quarterback, he does not figure to put himself in a position to compete for the starting job against Blaine Gabbert and Colin Kaepernick.

[MAIOCCO: Kaepernick: 'I'm very happy to be' playing for 49ers]

Driskel, the team’s fourth quarterback, got third-team repetitions throughout the offseason program because of Kaepernick’s inactivity due to his rehab from shoulder, thumb and knee surgeries. Kaepernick was cleared for 7-on-7 work during the 49ers’ recently concluded minicamp, but Driskel still received approximately a dozen snaps each day with the third-team offense in 11-on-11 drills.

“He’s really smart,” Kelly said of Driskel. “(He has) very, very good football IQ. He processes it really well.”

Russell Wilson, Deshaun Watson interested in Antonio Brown as teammate

Russell Wilson, Deshaun Watson interested in Antonio Brown as teammate

Around and around we go.

Almost any other wide receiver who burned as many bridges as Antonio Brown has over the last two years would never draw interest from another NFL team ever again. But due to his tantalizing talent and prolific production, he continues to get the benefit of the doubt.

He doesn't deserve it, but it's understandable. Forget receivers, when Brown is on the field, there are few offensive players more frightening for defensive coordinators. Of course, he also has proven himself to be a nightmare for his own coaches. Thus is the risk/reward factor he presents.

Despite his risk far outweighing the reward as of late, interest in Brown doesn't appear to be waning. 

Back in May, it was reported that Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson "would love" to add Brown to his receiving corps. A little more than a month later, the two were connecting on routes on a practice field.

Yes, that is a Raiders helmet that Brown is wearing. How'd his time in Oakland go, again? But I digress...

[49ERS INSIDER PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

Wilson doesn't appear to be the only star quarterback interested in adding Brown to his roster. After former NFL receiver Chad Johnson took to Twitter to express his preference for Brown to join the Texans, Houston QB Deshaun Watson didn't exactly pour cold water on the idea.

The Texans were on the wrong end of one of the more one-sided trades in recent memory this offseason when they questionably sent standout receiver DeAndre Hopkins to the Arizona Cardinals. Houston did acquire Brandin Cooks from the Los Angeles Rams, but perhaps Watson believes his receiving corps is missing an ingredient.

[RELATED: 49ers don't need Brown to be favorites, but Seahawks might]

If Brown is signed -- which is a big if -- it's unlikely he would be able to play much at all this coming season, regardless of which team signed him. A trio of Personal Conduct Policy investigations must be concluded before he can sign with a team, and even if all that is settled, it is widely expected that he would be facing a lengthy suspension upon rejoining the league.

Do you trust Brown to behave through that entire process? At this point, it's difficult to understand why anyone would. But clearly, some players still feel the risk is worth the reward.

Why Warren Moon believes 49ers are favorites in competitive NFC West

Why Warren Moon believes 49ers are favorites in competitive NFC West

The 49ers ran through the NFC playoffs, held a double-digit lead in the fourth quarter of Super Bowl LIV and arguably have improved this offseason. So, they've got to be the favorites in their own division, right?

It wouldn't exactly be going out on a limb to take that stance, as San Francisco currently is the betting favorite to emerge not just from the NFC West, but the conference as a whole. There's a reason for that, and Hall of Fame quarterback Warren Moon doesn't disagree.

"You'd have to go with San Francisco right now," Moon said Thursday on 95.7 The Game's "Joe, Lo and Dibs" show when asked which team is the favorite in the NFC West. "I mean, they're the defending NFC champs. They bring back pretty much everybody from that football team. 

"They've lost a couple of receivers, but I still think they have a lot of good talent on their team. Their strength is going to be in their running game. I think their offensive line just got strengthened by signing (Trent Williams). So, they're going to be the team to beat, but this is going to be one of the more competitive divisions in the NFL.

"You've got Seattle, who's going to be right there. ... And then you always have the Rams, who you just don't know how good they're going to be. And then Arizona is going to be much more improved. So this is going to be a very, very competitive division, as it usually is."

[RELATED: Report: 49ers' Mostert requested pay raise this offseason]

The 49ers might be the deserved favorites in the division, but Moon is correct. The NFC West was tough enough last year, when San Francisco split the season series with the Seahawks and went down to the wire in both meetings with the Cardinals. As good as the 49ers are, claiming a second straight division title will be no easy task.

[49ERS INSIDER PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]