The San Francisco 49ers signed seven players to their practice squad just two days ago. Those players which include T Carter Bykowski, TE Asante Cleveland, WR Lance Lewis, DE Lawrence Okoye, NT Mike Purcell, ILB Shayne Skov and OLB Chase Thomas will now be given a second-chance to show that they belong on the team. Add those players with three others including CB Chance Casey, OL John Fullington, and RB Kendall Gaskins, that rounds out the 10-team practice squad. But who are these players and where did they come from? Do they actually provide depth or were rather picked up based on their potential? I have analyzed all 10 players while giving some insight as to what they can bring to the 49ers.
T Carter Bykowski
Analysis: Originally a seventh-round draft pick (No. 246) in the 2013 NFL Draft, Bykowski defied the odds his rookie season and made the team’s practice squad. A behemoth of a man as Bykowski stands 6-6 and 306 pounds, it’s no wonder the 49ers took a chance on the Iowa State product. A player that has the potential to be a swing tackle at the NFL level, Bykowski is looking more and more like a proto-typical right tackle, as he doesn’t possess the explosion or quickness to get off the snap. And while he does have some trouble in pass-protection, Bykowski has shown some signs of improvement during the 2014 preseason.
TE Asante Cleveland
Analysis: An undrafted rookie free-agent out of the “U,” Cleveland proved to be a pleasant surprise throughout training camp and preseason. Through four exhibition games, Cleveland made the most of his limited opportunities as he caught three catches for 22 yards and one touchdown. Not bad for an undrafted rookie and as a result Cleveland cracks the p-squad as his position warrants it, being a tight-end.
WR Lance Lewis
Analysis: Originally signed as an undrafted rookie free-agent by the Washington Redskins in 2012, Lewis then bounced around to the Dallas Cowboys in 2013 before landing in San Francisco just three weeks ago. At 6-0 and 207 pounds, Lewis has the frame and football savvy to create separation from defensive backs. His bread and butter which is finding soft spots in zone coverage on underneath routes, Lewis is a nice insurance policy in case the 49ers wear thin during the course of the season.
DE Lawrence Okoye
Analysis: The Okoye project continues as he makes the practice squad for the second consecutive season. The former Olympian discus athlete turned football project, Okoye will be expected to make huge strides this season. A big man as Okoye stands 6-6 and 300-plus pounds, he will need to do a better job of lowering his pad level if he hopes to make the 53-man roster in 2015.
NT Mike Purcell
Analysis: An undrafted rookie free-agent in 2013, Purcell makes the p-squad for the second consecutive season. A stout player that did a decent job during the preseason in his gap assignments, Purcell still gets pushed back from time to time, leaving me to wonder if he has the strength to hold the point of attack. A project player at best, the 49ers will give the small-school kid one more look before cutting ties with him.
ILB Shayne Skov
Analysis: I had Skov tied to the 49ers for quite some time now dating back to his Pro Day with the 49ers in April. A smart player with the 49ers mentality to do whatever it takes to win, I knew that Skov would be a nice asset to the 49ers team. A prediction I made earlier that month as I said that both Skov and ILB Chris Borland would be targeted by the 49ers, it just so happened that both of those players are now with the team. But what does Skov bring to the table? I hate to say this but Skov’s lack of speed will ultimately be his downfall. He takes all the proper angles to the ball carrier but gets killed due to being speed deficient. You can’t coach speed, and Skov will have to make up for it in some other capacity if he hopes to make the 53-man squad in 2015.
OLB Chase Thomas
Analysis: Despite being an undrafted rookie free-agent, Thomas’ play shined during the preseason as he recorded six tackles (one tackle for loss), and two pass break-ups. A true blue-collar player that makes plays off pure hustle, it’s no wonder Thomas made the team. And despite getting in a scuffle with RB Jewel Hampton during camp, Thomas remained calm, cool, and collected as Hampton took shots to Thonas’ head/helmet. A good player with special-teams potential, he is a nice addition that the 49ers can groom.
CB Chance Casey
Analysis: Casey spent last season on the Oakland Raiders practice squad and finds himself in a similar situation to last year’s practice-squad player CB Dax Swanson. A project at best, it will be interesting to see how Casey bodes on special-teams as that’s his best chance of cracking the 53-man roster in 2015.
OG John Fullington
Analysis: A project at best, I would be surprised if Fullington surpassed Bykowski on the depth chart. However, Fullington does provide versatility as he can also be kicked in to guard so he does add some value there. A player signed from the Green Bay Packers, Fullington will now work his way up the depth chart as he fights for a roster spot in 2015.
RB Kendall Gaskins
Analysis: An undrafted rookie free-agent in 2013, Gaskins bounced around before landing in San Francisco. Last year, Gaskins spent time on the Tennessee Titans and New York Giants practice squad and rushed 29 times for 104 yards (3.6-yard avg.) for the Giants during this year’s preseason. A bigger back as he stands 6-1 and 238 pounds, he brings a downhill presence that’s more of a north-south runner.