49ers’ 2018 ‘Who Is?’ series: Offensive lineman Erik Magnuson

ANN ARBOR, MI - SEPTEMBER 26: Quarterback Jake Rudock
ANN ARBOR, MI - SEPTEMBER 26: Quarterback Jake Rudock /

Niner Noise’s 2018 “Who Is?” series on San Francisco 49ers players shifts focus to the offensive like, taking a look at second-year pro Erik Magnuson and his projected impact this upcoming season.

The San Francisco 49ers hope to have found something of a hidden gem in 2017 undrafted free-agent offensive lineman Erik Magnuson out of Michigan.

Magnuson saw four games’ action his rookie season, even starting two when the Niners were dealing with some attrition up front. He accumulated a 41.5 overall grade during that stretch, per Pro Football Focus, roughly equally distributed between run and pass blocking marks.

Not great, by any stretch, but San Francisco clearly liked what it saw in Magnuson last year.

A priority free agent following the 2017 NFL Draft, Magnuson primarily worked with the third-team O-line during training camp and into the preseason, occasionally seeing snaps with the second unit. At times, the Niners worked him at center before the regular season. This cross training appeared to indicate head coach Kyle Shanahan wished to have Magnuson a sort of “uber” offensive lineman of sorts.

He’ll have some competition for such a role this season. Yet there are signs indicating he’ll be worth a roster spot when September rolls around.

So what will Magnuson have to do to ensure he makes the 53-man roster?

Why Erik Magnuson Improves in 2018

Magnuson spent most of his time at Michigan playing right tackle but also has experience at guard. Versatility is a key attribute for depth players, but there are more reasons to assume Magnuson sticks around after training camp.

One of the key reasons is his scheme fit. Shanahan’s outside-zone blocking scheme requires mobility and the ability to block in space. While PFF’s analysis of Magnuson isn’t particularly impressive, his collegiate scouting reports suggest he’s a seamless fit for this kind of scheme.

NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein broke it down a year ago:

"Solid athlete with loose hips and good lateral movement. Average feet but a clean, smooth kick slide. Understands his angles as a zone blocker and will give ground to gain ground on his cut-blocks. Patient on reach blocks and waits until feet are in position before locking up. Can adjust in space to connect with moving targets. Dependable in space."

Sounds like a zone-style O-lineman.

If Magnuson is able to build on these strengths, all the while cutting down on being overpowered at the line of scrimmage, he’ll likely work his way towards being a quality backup in 2018.

Why He Regresses

While Magnuson is 6-foot-4 and 305 pounds, he tends to play smaller than his size actually indicates.

At Michigan, he struggled against bigger and stronger defensive linemen — the kind of players he’d have to face on a regular basis at the pro level and a main reason he went undrafted.

San Francisco 49ers
San Francisco 49ers /

San Francisco 49ers

Zierlein also pointed out Magnuson is best suited to play along the interior at the next level. Considering both of the lineman’s starts last year were at tackle, combined with his struggles there, it’s possible he reverts to being a guard/center only.

And San Francisco has enough of those heading towards the regular season.

Chances of Making the 49ers’ 53-Man Roster in 2018

Again, versatility is going to be Magnuson’s best attribute towards cracking the regular-season roster.

Magnuson will have to beat out a number of other players, both on the inside and out, to ensure he sticks around. On the positive side, beating out any crop of linemen at either guard or tackle should ensure him a roster spot. But the problem is whether or not he’s the best backup option at tackle — the position at which he struggled during the regular season last year.

Among the favorites to land the key backup gig is veteran tackle Garry Gilliam. Even if Gilliam wins the job outright, Magnuson could still stick around as an interior backup.

Yet that would put more pressure on him to perform above many of the other O-line depth players the Niners have heading towards training camp.

Next: Winners & losers from the 49ers' final week of OTAs

Right now, Magnuson is on the bubble. But his use last year seems to indicate he’s on the stronger side and has a solid chance to be named to the 53-man roster in 2018.