49ers 2020 ‘Who Is?’ series: Josh Hokit to replace Kyle Juszczyk?
By Peter Panacy
It won’t happen in 2020, but could the 49ers envision rookie fullback Josh Hokit replacing Kyle Juszczyk down the road?
It seems odd, perhaps impossible the San Francisco 49ers are penciling undrafted rookie Josh Hokit in as a long-term replacement for their perennial Pro Bowl fullback, Kyle Juszczyk.
Especially considering all the factors. Juszczyk is the best fullback in the game, and head coach Kyle Shanahan’s offense, particularly on the ground, is infinitely better with Juszczyk on the field compared to those times when he’s off it. This was evident when the Niners were without the four-time Pro Bowler for four regular-season games a year ago.
Yet there are many other factors at stake here. Juszczyk, 29 years old, is entering the final season of the four-year, $21 million contract he signed with San Francisco back in 2017.
Considering the 49ers aren’t bathing in lucrative amounts of salary cap space any longer and have some other seriously pressing contracts to consider, namely tight end George Kittle, retaining Juszczyk on a new deal in 2021 could be beyond the team’s fiscal reach.
The 6-foot-1, 225-pound fullback came to the Niners by the way of Fresno State as an undrafted free agent last April, following a four-year collegiate career which included some solid rushing numbers to go along with his modest pass-catching abilities:
Provided by CFB at Sports Reference: View Original Table
That potentially bodes well for Shanahan’s “positionless” offense. But where Hokit will have to earn his role is serving as a lead blocker, which is Juszczyk’s proverbial “bread and butter.”
It might not totally come to fruition right away, but here’s how Hokit can leave an impression his rookie season, as Niner Noise’s annual “Who Is?” series takes a deeper look.
Why Josh Hokit improves with 49ers in 2020
In contrast to Juszczyk, Hokit offers a lot more in the running game. Last season, the former had a mere three rushing attempts for a total of 7 yards, all but eliminating Juszczyk from those vital short-yardage situations.
Hokit, meanwhile, has the accolades for picking up yards on the ground even in tight confines, as evidenced in the video below:
And as far as blocking goes, Hokit can do more than just hold his own. There’s a good deal of physical strength displayed, which should carry over well to the NFL level.
Why Josh Hokit regresses with 49ers in 2020
While he did have some impressive catches at the collegiate level, Hokit hasn’t established himself yet as a bona fide receiving threat. That’s something Juszczyk possesses, and it’ll be up to Hokit to master one of the most complex offensive systems in the entire NFL.
That’s not an easy task for some of the better route runners out there, and Hokit’s experience here is about as limited as it gets.
Plus, one can also look at Hokit’s smaller frame and realize he doesn’t quite have what it takes to handle bigger, faster, stronger linebackers at the next level. Juszczyk is a full 15 pounds heavier than Hokit, and the rookie doesn’t exactly have a frame built for added weight.
It’s possible Hokit is merely outmuscled when going up against pro-level competition.
Chances of making 49ers’ 53-man roster in 2020
The Niners aren’t going to suddenly move on from Juszczyk this upcoming season, and there’s no reason to put two fullbacks on the 53-man roster either.
As such, the likeliest of scenarios for the former Bulldog would be to see his rookie season spent on the practice squad, stashed away as a bit of an insurance piece in case San Francisco isn’t able to re-sign Juszczyk after 2020 is up. That’s certainly a possibility, though, considering the 49ers are going to be faced with some awfully tough roster decisions next offseason.
In the meantime, one would expect to see Hokit in the second half of preseason games this year, competing with some of the hybrid blockers the Niners have on their roster elsewhere.
Instead, 2021 could potentially be the year where Hokit begins to make a name for himself.