Offensive tackle John Theus is our focus in this Niner Noise’s “Who Is?” installment on San Francisco 49ers players in 2017. Can Theus make the roster this season?
If you were like me, you probably were scratching your head a bit when former San Francisco 49ers general manager Trent Baalke selected former Georgia offensive lineman John Theus in Round 5 of the 2016 NFL Draft.
Theus, a three-year collegiate starter, likely was targeted by San Francisco last year to be a future swing tackle.
But in the fifth round, this was likely a reach.
San Francisco 49ers
Theus managed to get into four games as a rookie last season, even starting one of them late in the year when injuries along the Niners offensive line began to take their toll.
The results weren’t particularly inspiring, which certainly doesn’t help his chances to stay on the roster, amid a new regime, in 2017.
How can Theus improve his stock between now and Week 1? And why might we see San Francisco move on from its 2016 investment?
Let’s take a deeper look.
Why He’ll Improve
Theus’ bar is already set pretty low. According to Pro Football Focus, Theus posted an abysmal 28.4 overall grade his rookie season.
That’s bad, certainly the worst among all 49ers O-linemen.
It’s important to remember, though, Theus wasn’t a highly touted draft pick. And rookie linemen of this caliber rarely make a serious impact in year one.
One of the knocks against him, according to NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein, was Theus’ lack of strength. The 6-foot-6, 317 pounder benched just 19 reps of 225 pounds at his pro day. However, he is just 23 years old and can add a bit more bulk to his frame for the added power.
As far as scheme, shown in this 2014 DraftBreakdown.com video below, one can see Theus having some moderate success with outside-zone runs:
This is what will be asked of him from head coach Kyle Shanahan, assuming Theus makes the roster.
Why He’ll Regress
Also shown in the above video are the signs Theus won’t be able to effectively translate his skill set over to the NFL level.
Theus is regularly beat, both my moves and strength, especially in the earlier clips.
Those shortcomings didn’t help his draft stock last year, and they certainly won’t help his chances to stick around on the 49ers roster this season either.
San Francisco also added some competition this offseason. While free-agent pickup, former Seattle Seahawks tackle Garry Gilliam, isn’t a huge improvement, Gilliam at least has a slightly better NFL pedigree.
And with one failed season — more or less — under his belt, Theus may not have what it takes to bounce back in time.
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What to Expect in 2017
Per Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee, Theus spent the majority of time at OTAs working with the second-team unit.
Gilliam was also playing within this group, but how many backup tackles will San Francisco keep on the roster this season?
Neither player’s roster spot is truly safe, for sure. And there’s another name to add to the list of competitors: veteran lineman Zane Beadles.
Beadles, who also struggled his first year with San Francisco in 2016, does have the flexibility to play any one of the five O-line positions. That versatility almost assuredly guarantees him a roster spot, even if he doesn’t start.
This could push Theus off the roster altogether when roster cuts are made prior to Week 1.
If, for some reason, Theus manages to make it through cuts, it’s likely he’d wind up being a regular on the Niners’ weekly inactive list. There simply wouldn’t be a reason to have him as a primary backup unless there was some serious attrition involved.
It’s even more likely San Francisco elects to use this coveted roster spot for one of their younger players selected by this new regime.
As such, don’t look for Theus to be on the roster this season.