49ers 2021 ‘Who is?’ series: Tom Compton a training camp filler

San Francisco 49ers offensive guard Tom Compton (66) Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
San Francisco 49ers offensive guard Tom Compton (66) Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports /

The 49ers somewhat surprisingly re-signed veteran guard Tom Compton during the offseason, yet he figures to be little more than a training camp body.

During the 2020 offseason, the San Francisco 49ers thought former New York Jets offensive guard Tom Compton could be a halfway decent upgrade over the then-recently released starter, Mike Person.

Well, things didn’t exactly pan out that way.

Compton’s struggles were evident in training camp, forcing a renegotiation of his contract signed with the Niners, and it was pretty clear the former South Dakota lineman was going to be pegged for backup duties and nothing more.

Yet San Francisco’s slew of injuries over the course of the year ultimately resulted in Compton seeing seven games of action, starting three of them and playing a substantial 14 percent of the team’s offensive snaps.

All of these were at right guard. And somewhat surprisingly, Pro Football Focus suggested Compton put together a decent campaign, recording a respectable 68.1 overall grade on the season, which goes to show PFF grades aren’t the end-all, be-all for player evaluation.

Truth be told, Compton struggled. If he didn’t, the 49ers wouldn’t have given fellow linemen Justin Skule and Colton McKivitz a good chunk of interior snaps last season.

Re-signed to a one-year deal before the NFL Draft, the 32-year-old sixth-round pickup of the Washington Football Team in 2012 figures to be a training camp body this season, as newly added Niners linemen will be vying to take his spot on the 53-man roster.

Unless, by some unforeseen means, Compton shows some serious improvement.

Why Tom Compton improves with 49ers in 2021

At this stage in his career, it’s almost impossible to suggest Compton goes from a backup-type player to someone who can be readily relied upon to start seven or eight games at guard.

That said, Compton does have a full year immersed in head coach Kyle Shanahan’s outside-zone blocking system, and Compton can also benefit from having seen the field during OTAs — something that wasn’t the case during the 2020 pandemic-shortened offseason.

With so much O-line shuffling last year, it was hard for Compton to define his role even though he stuck solely at guard.

If anything, some more consistency on either side of him should do Compton a little bit of good.

Why Tom Compton struggles with 49ers in 2021

Again, Compton essentially “is who he is” at this stage of his career: a modest backup, who can help a team with depth problems in a pinch.

San Francisco added two more O-linemen in the draft, Aaron Banks in Round 2 and Jaylon Moore in Round 5, and both figure to compete for the starting right guard spot, Banks being the favorite of the rookies and someone who’ll have a shot to unseat another potential starter, Daniel Brunskill.

Right there, the 49ers have three names who could potentially earn a roster spot at guard, making it tougher for Compton to hang around after the preseason.

A lesser workload during training camp means less attention from the coaching staff, and that usually translates to an early exit off the roster.

Chances Tom Compton makes 49ers’ 53-man roster

He’s not necessarily a long shot, but it’s hard to envision Compton being anything more than a weak-bubble player.

There’s always the chance Compton puts on a show during training camp and the preseason, while players like Banks, McKivitz and/or Moore don’t quite cut it. But with Compton’s one-year deal carrying zero in guaranteed money against a potential earning of $850,000, it wouldn’t be hard for the Niners to simply move on if they feel those three provide better options.

A small wrinkle in this is San Francisco’s recent loss of Skule to a season-ending ACL tear.

Skule was primarily a backup tackle but saw some time at guard last year, namely due to the need because of injuries. This does thin out the competition somewhat, but Compton will still need to beat out other reserves like McKivitz and Moore to stand a chance.

The likeliest of scenarios is Compton ends up playing the second half of the 49ers’ first two preseason games, then getting in on a good deal of action in Week 3 of exhibition frames.

After that, he’s probably onto somewhere else.

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