San Francisco 49ers: Kory Faulkner

Examining the San Francisco 49ers' roster:

QUARTERBACKS (2)

Because of heavy competition elsewhere, the 49ers will likely only carry two quarterbacks. They finished last season that way. The competition will be to see if undrafted rookie Kory Faulkner can take McLeod Bethel-Thompson's spot on the practice squad.

RUNNING BACKS (5)

The fact that the 49ers drafted Hyde in the second round and Lattimore is healthy means some tough decisions will have to be made. Hunter is too valuable to let go. That means 2012 second-round pick LaMichael James will have difficulty making the roster.

WIDE RECEIVERS (6)

The 49ers are so much deeper here this year than last. That means they will likely have to keep six receivers. Lloyd may look good and Patton has too much potential to give up on. That means it could be tough for Kassim Osgood to make it even though he is a special teams cog.

TIGHT ENDS (3)

If Davis ends his holdout, I can't see the 49ers keeping more than three tight ends because of the glut at receiver. Unless Garrett Celek has a big camp, he may be in trouble. Carrier intrigues the 49ers because of his size and speed.

OFFENSIVE LINE (8)

Assuming Boone ends his holdout, this is a pretty nice group of eight players. It's improved from last year. A solid veteran like Adam Snyder and a promising youngster like Ryan Seymour will have trouble making the team.

DEFENSIVE LINE (9)

This is another power spot. It's deep. Players like Jerod-Eddie and Dial are too valuable to cut. Ramsey has looked good and I have a hunch the 49ers may like him too much to expose him to the waiver wire. That means Demarcus Dobbs could be in trouble.

LINEBACKERS (7)

Most teams carry six linebackers but the 49ers are stacked here, especially with NaVorro Bowman out for about half the season. Because fifth-round pick Lynch is promising he should make the roster. Dan Skuta is an excellent player, but there might not be any room for him. I could see him being one of those later-summer Trent Baalke trade specials because he has value.

CORNERBACKS (5)

This unit is in flux, but I see Johnson making it. Don't be surprised if there is some in-camp jockeying as the 49ers look for the best mix.

SAFETIES (5)

Ward, the 49ers' first-round pick, will play nickel cornerback as a rookie, but projects long term as a safety. Ventrone and Spillman should stick because they are great on special teams. Craig Dahl could be in trouble.

SPECIALISTS (3):

This group is set and it's excellent.

Rookie QB intriguing to 49ers

June, 17, 2014
Jun 17
11:00
PM ET
SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- Kory Faulkner very likely will not be any factor for the 2014 San Francisco 49ers.

But the undrafted rookie quarterback out of Southern Illinois was a topic Tuesday when the 49ers started minicamp. Quarterbacks coach Greg Roman had words about Faulkner that are rarely spoken of a player of his stature in June.

“He’s the kind of guy that at some point in his career you can probably turn the keys over to him,” Roman said. “And that’s a long ways off, but he definitely does some things that we like.”

Of course, Roman did not say he thinks Faulkner will become the 49ers' starting quarterback. But to talk about an undrafted rookie in those terms is pretty interesting.

The 49ers signed Faulkner after he worked out with coach Jim Harbaugh in the pre-draft season. Harbaugh liked what he saw. Faulkner was enthralled by Harbaugh.

“He’s one of the coolest guys I ever met,” Faulkner said Tuesday.

Faulkner was so taken by Harbaugh he said he pretty much made up his mind prior to the draft that he’d sign with the 49ers if offered. Roman made a point of saying the quarterback had his work cut out for him in college.

“He had no offensive line in college, no offense to those players, but he can throw under duress let me tell you that,” Roman said. “The first play here, I think we had really good protection and we said to him, ‘What’d you think of that? That was pretty neat, wasn’t it? You haven’t had that in a while.’ But, he had a big smile on his face. But, yeah he had to operate under duress. His first read in college was avoid the free rusher and then go from there.”
SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- Patrick Willis may have a slightly different look in the first half of the upcoming season.

Willis
During Tuesday's organized team activity, Willis was playing the "Mike" inside linebacker spot usually occupied by NaVorro Bowman in the 49ers' 3-4 defense. Bowman is likely out until midway through the season as he recovers from a torn ACL. Michael Wilhoite, the leading candidate to take Bowman's spot in the staring lineup, took most of the first-team repetitions Tuesday in the "Jack" inside linebacker spot Willis played last year.

Willis said the change may stick for the season. It is just a subtle change and he is comfortable there because he has played in the spot before. Willis said it is still strange being on the field without his fellow inside-linebacker star Bowman.

In other 49ers' notes:
  • Star tight end Vernon Davis and standout guard Alex Boone continued to stay away from the voluntary session as they have all offseason. They are both unhappy with their contract. Neither player will be considered a holdout until they miss the June 17-19 mandatory minicamp. Second-year tight end Vance McDonald is starting at tight end with Davis gone. McDonald appreciates the extra reps, but admitted this about Davis: "I miss the dude." Joe Looney is working in Boone's right guard spot.
  • The 49ers cut guard Al Netter to make room for special teamer Blake Costanzo on the 90-man roster.
  • Veteran defensive end Justin Smith and running back Frank Gore were onlookers during the meat of the workout. Like Gore, cornerback Chris Culliver participated in early warm-ups and the did not participate in team drills.
  • The 49ers named Dr. Fergus Connolly director of elite performance. Connolly will work intimately with football operations to develop innovative sports and performance science practices geared towards player welfare and performance optimization. He spent the last three years as a performance consultant to teams in the NFL, NBA, English Premier League and professional rugby.
  • Because several receivers were out for various reasons, reserve quarterback Josh Johnson played receiver in some drills. And he didn't look too bad. But don't expect him to change positions. It's just an emergency deal.
  • Among the banged up receivers are Steve Johnson (hamstring) and Quinton Patton (foot). Both injures are considered minor at this point. Like he did last week, Brandon Lloyd had a strong day. Chuck Jacobs, who spent last season in the practice squad, was very active Tuesday.
  • The quarterback whisperer, 49ers' head coach Jim Harbaugh, spent some one-on-one time with undrafted rookie quarterback Kory Faulkner early in Tuesday's practice.
The San Francisco 49ers have signed seven undrafted free agents.

I called upon Scouts Inc.’s Steve Muench to give me his scouting report on each player. There’s some interesting players on this list. Let’s take a look:

Shayne Skov, ILB, Stanford

Skov doesn’t show great top-end speed on tape and his ability to stay healthy is a substantial concern yet we still gave him a fifth-round grade making him the biggest steal on this list. He is a reliable tackler with good instincts and he’s perfect for the 49ers’ scheme. Remember, he played for defensive coordinator Vic Fangio at Stanford in 2010.

Morgan Breslin, OLB, Southern California

Breslin is short for a 3-4 outside linebacker. He needs to get stronger against the run and he’s coming off a season-ending hip injury, but we still gave him an early-seventh/late-sixth-round grade and the reason is his upside as a pass-rusher. He’s quick; his active hands make it tough to lock on to his frame and he closes well.

Dillon Farrell, C, New Mexico

I got a chance to see Farrell the week of the East-West Shrine Game and I can see why the 49ers would give him a chance to compete for a roster spot. At 6-foot-5 and 309 pounds, he has the prototypical frame and long arms (33 3/8-inch arms) for an interior offensive lineman. While none of the centers at the East-West game were drafted, I thought Farrell had the strongest showing out of the group. For what it’s worth, his school bio says he was 5-8 and weighed 160 pounds in ninth grade, which is crazy.

Asante Cleveland, TE, Miami

Cleveland caught a total of five passes over the past two seasons and his lack of production is an obvious concern. He’s intriguing because he has the potential to be a better pro than college player. At 6-foot-4 and 262 pounds, he has the frame to develop into an effective blocker. While he has below average top-end speed, he is a big target with big hands and long arms.

Fou Fonoti, OT, Michigan State

Fonoti missed most of the 2012 season with a broken foot and he may have to kick inside to guard to make it in the NFL as I’m not sure he has the length to protect the edge. He is another player whose best football may be ahead of him.

Kory Faulkner, QB, Southern Illinois

A big quarterback that reportedly ran well at his pro day and made strides as a passer his senior year but didn’t excel at the FCS level like you’d expect from an NFL prospect.

L.J. McCray, DB, Catawba

McCray missed almost the entire 2011 season with an injury so he’s another player with durability concerns and he didn’t put up eye-popping numbers at Catawba. However, he also reportedly worked out well at his pro day and he can contribute on special teams.
Prior to the draft, we looked at several big questions facing the San Francisco 49ers. With the draft in the books, let's review how, or if, these questions were addressed:

Will it be easy to trade up? There was big talk the 49ers would trade way up in the first round. That didn't happen and they stayed put at No. 30. The 49ers made five trades during the weekend, but none were in the first round.

Is this the year Harbaugh drafts a Stanford player? No. It was the last full recruiting class for Jim Harbaugh at Stanford. He left after the 2010 season to go to the 49ers. Harbaugh had previously brought undrafted free agents to the 49ers but he never drafted one. It didn't change this year. The 49ers did sign standout linebacker Shayne Skov as an undrafted free agent. He was expected to be a mid-round pick.

Will the drafting injured player trend continue? And how. The 49ers utilized their surplus of picks. They drafted Clemson guard Brandon Thomas in the third round. He recently tore his ACL but was previously considered a middle of the second round pick. Later in the draft, the 49ers took cornerback Keith Reaser and fullback Trey Millard. They are also both recovering from torn ACLs and will likely not play in 2014.

Will the quarterback whisperer get a new charge? Not in the draft. Harbaugh worked out several quarterbacks, but he didn't draft one. They did sign Southern Illinois quarterback Kory Faulkner as an undrafted free agent.

How many picks are enough? Twelve. Wow. The 49ers entered the draft with 11 picks. With so few needs, the thought was the 49ers would trade several picks. But they kept getting picks in trades and they kept taking players. Not all 12 will make this team, but the 49ers will go to camp with a lot of good competition. That's not a bad thing.

Will they pick a new return man? Fourth-round pick, speedy South Carolina receiver Bruce Ellington, can return kicks and punts. Incumbent returner LaMichael James is open to a trade. That likely won't happen, but it is no sure thing James makes the team.

Where does a pass-rusher fit? In the fifth round. The 49ers took South Florida's Aaron Lynch there. There are some character concerns, but Lynch has big ability. The 49ers need to load up on pass-rushers with off-field issues clouding Aldon Smith's future.
The San Francisco 49ers announced six undrafted free agents that they started to agree to terms with shortly after the draft ended Saturday.

There weren't any surprises on the list that is headlined by former Stanford standout linebacker Shayne Skov. He was expected to be a mid-rounder. Skov played for 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh and defensive coordinator Vic Fangio at Stanford. Here is the complete list:

Morgan Breslin, linebacker, Southern California

Dillon Farrell, center, New Mexico

Kory Faulkner, quarterback, Southern Illinois

Fou Fonoti. tackle, Michigan State

L.J. McCray, defensive back, Catawba

Shayne Skov, linebacker, Stanford

The 49ers are also reportedly set to sign former Miami tight end Asante Cleveland. UPDATE: Cleveland is now signed.

To help make room for these players the 49ers cut three players form their 90-man roster. They are linebacker Darius Fleming, receiver DeMarco Sampson and cornerback Dax Swanson. Fleming was a fifth-round pick in 2012. The only remaining players on the 49ers from that class are running back LaMichael James and guard Joe Looney. Neither have a big role.
The San Francisco 49ers added 12 players in the draft (and veteran receiver Stevie Johnson through a trade) during the weekend. The 49ers entered the draft with a stacked roster. Whittling down to the 53-man roster will not be an easy task this summer.

Let’s take a look at positions where veterans who could be in jeopardy of making the roster due to the additions.

Quarterback

Who could be on the bubble? McLeod Bethel-Thompson.

Why: Bethel-Thompson finished last year on the practice squad. The 49ers are signing Southern Illinois quarterback Kory Faulkner as an undrafted free agent. The two will likely be battling for a practice squad gig.

Running back

Who could be on the bubble? Kendall Hunter and LaMichael James.

Why: The 49ers drafted Ohio State’s Carlos Hyde in the second round. The 49ers will definitely roll with Frank Gore, Hyde and Marcus Lattimore (if healthy) at tailback. Bruce Miller will be the fullback. That leaves one or two spots. I bet the 49ers find a way to keep the valuable Hunter. But James, who would be open to a trade, could be expendable.

Receiver

Who could be on the bubble? Jon Baldwin, Brandon Lloyd and Kassim Osgood.

Why: Johnson will be the No. 3 receiver and fourth-round pick Bruce Ellington will certainly make the team. The team also likes second-year player Quinton Patton. If the 49ers keep six receivers, Osgood has a good chance to make the team because he is simply awesome on special teams. Baldwin has virtually no chance to make the team and Lloyd, who was signed earlier this offseason, would have to have a tremendous camp to make it.

Offensive line

Who could be on the bubble? Joe Looney and Adam Snyder

Why: The 49ers drafted center Marcus Martin (fellow third-round pick Brandon Thomas will likely be on the PUP all season). That could mean Looney, who played well at guard in a limited role last year, could be in trouble, but I think the 49ers will give him every chance to make the team. Synder could be on the odd man out although the team likes this experience. This could be a position where the 49ers go heavy.

Linebacker

Who could be on the bubble? Nick Moody

Why: The 49ers drafted inside linebacker Chris Borland in the third round and they are expected to add former Stanford standout Shayne Skov on undrafted free agency. Borland will surely make the team. If Skov makes the 53-man roster Moody, a sixth-round pick last year, would have difficulty sticking.

Secondary

Who could be on the bubble? Chris Cook, Eric Wright, Craig Dahl, Bubba Ventrone

Why: This position will likely take some time to develop. The 49ers added three cornerbacks in the draft and first-round safety Jimmie Ward will play nickel. Ward and fourth-round pick Dontae Johnson will definitely make the team. So, a veteran or two may be expendable. Again, this will be a heated camp battle.

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