Niner Noise’s 2018 “Who Is?” series looks at a recent addition to the San Francisco 49ers roster, offensive lineman Mike Person, and his possible role this season.
See what we did there?
Anyway, back to our regularly scheduled programming.
Person, who just turned 30 years old, rejoins the Niners after initially being drafted by them in Round 7 of the 2011 NFL Draft. He didn’t see action with San Francisco his rookie season, eventually being released the following year and bouncing around with a flurry of teams before landing something of a regular role with the Atlanta Falcons in 2014.
Person’s tenure in Atlanta is notable, especially as he worked a season (2015) under then-Falcons, now-49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan.
Shanahan has placed value on players familiar with his offense. Person isn’t an exception. And with the Niners having vastly overhauled their offensive line this offseason, Person could easily wind up holding a major role with the squad in 2018.
He’ll have to shed the perennial backup and fill-in moniker, though. And signed to a one-year deal, it’s safe to say little is guaranteed for him.
Why Mike Person Improves in 2018
Person ended up the Indianapolis Colts’ starting center last season after the team lost its starter, Ryan Kelly, to injury. And 2017 actually ended up being Person’s best year as a pro, according to Pro Football Focus, who awarded him with a career-high 70.5 overall grade.
It’s not surprising to see late-round/undrafted O-linemen take a while to find their stride at the NFL level. So assuming Person is another late-bloomer example, it’s feasible to assume this trend continues in the right direction.
Interestingly enough, Person has the flexibility to play all five positions along the O-line. It’s not unlike what the 49ers had with former lineman Zane Beadles the past couple of years. But with Beadles’ 32.9 overall PFF grade a year ago, it’s pretty clear San Francisco made an upgrade.
Why He Regresses
True, Person had a solid year for the Colts last season. And they ran a lot of zone-blocking schemes last year but weren’t particularly successful with it, per PFF.
On top of that, Person’s lone year under Shanahan previously wasn’t overly impressive. He owned a 54.4 overall grade working within Shanahan’s scheme in Atlanta in 2015 and also allowed 18 quarterback hurries and posted a lowly minus-8.2 run-blocking mark, per PFF.
San Francisco 49ers
It’s a realistic suggestion Person’s 2017 campaign was more a proverbial “flash in the pan” rather than an indication of what’s to come.
And now on the wrong side of 30 years old, one shouldn’t assume Person is improving his abilities.
Expected Role with the 49ers in 2018
The flexibility to play all positions along the O-line all but guarantees Person a spot on the 53-man roster. He’s an upgrade over Beadles, sure, but what will his eventual role with the 49ers be in 2018?
At least according to the Sacramento Bee’s Matt Barrows, who sees Person as a legitimate candidate to earn a starting job this season.
It’s not out of the realm of possibility. Person’s prior knowledge of Shanahan’s system, combined with the thought of building off a solid 2017, more than makes the lineman a solid candidate.
But an educated guess has Person filling a just-as-valuable backup role for the interior positions, as well as on the outside.
Expect Person to be an uber-backup of sorts in 2018. Nothing wrong with that role either.