In this installment of Niner Noise’s 2018 “Who Is?” series, we take a look at San Francisco 49ers undrafted free-agent offensive lineman Coleman Shelton and his projected role this offseason.
Depth is still a concern, though, and general manager John Lynch targeted former Washington center/offensive lineman Coleman Shelton after the team’s efforts in the 2018 NFL Draft.
Shelton moved around Washington’s O-line a lot his first three years, finally settling in at center. The 6-foot-4, 299 pounder’s versatility should do him some good this training camp. Depth players and guys on the roster bubble need to have positional flexibility to increase their chances.
Grabbed as an undrafted free agent, Shelton will still have a long way to go before cracking an active NFL roster. But like the 49ers did with former Michigan O-lineman Erik Magnuson last year, Shelton’s developmental traits could be worth honing.
If Shelton hopes to cash in on his outside chances, here’s what he’ll have to do between camp and the preseason.
Why Coleman Shelton Improves in 2018
Shelton’s versatility is a solid trait, although his frame probably lends him to being a better interior blocker at the pro level.
He ran a 5.21 40-yard time at the NFL Scouting Combine, which is solid enough for an offensive lineman. And from what one can gather from his NFL.com draft profile, Shelton is solid enough to fit in head coach Kyle Shanahan’s outside-zone blocking scheme. Notably, the lineman’s ability to move laterally and reach his blocks at the second level with relative ease.
If these traits are enough to build upon, and he’s able to improve his play strength, Shelton might find himself carving out a depth role sooner than later.
Why He Regresses
That play strength is a major concern, as NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein pointed out.
Shelton is susceptible to being overworked by bull rushes, and one shouldn’t expect him to hold up against power rushers at any point along the line. Defenders in college were usually able to get by him with effective swim moves when Shelton was slightly out of position. With the level of competition ramping up, Shelton’s lack of upper-body strength could prove problematic.
On top of that, his recovery skills aren’t quite up to par. This is one of the reasons why he’d be something of a liability at tackle, where he wouldn’t have the support of linemen on either side.
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Chances of Making the 49ers’ 53-Man Roster in 2018
It’s safe to say Shelton is in the long-shot category heading into training camp. Remember, the Niners already have a few depth options along the interior of the O-line — Magnuson and veteran free-agent pickup Mike Person.
Shelton would have to soundly beat out one of these two, among others, to stand a chance. And that seems pretty remote right now.
The good news, though, is Shelton possesses a body frame capable of adding on some additional muscle. If he’s able to hone his technique a bit further while getting stronger at the same time, it’s possible he winds up being that next prospect who just needed a little extra time developing.
This would mean practice squad placement, of course, as it’s doubtful the 49ers use a roster spot on him.
But just like Magnuson before, Shelton could easily wind up being one of those “hidden gems” capable of filling vital backup roles at some point in the future.