49ers roster 2021: Corbin Kaufusi a ‘massive’ project
By Peter Panacy
The 49ers brought in offensive lineman Corbin Kaufusi on a reserve/futures contract hoping to develop him into something worthwhile in 2021.
There’s no shortage of project players on the back end of any NFL 90-man offseason roster, and that’s precisely what depth offensive lineman Corbin Kaufusi is heading into 2021.
A converted defensive end now playing tackle, Kaufusi first broke into the league as an undrafted free-agent pickup of the New Orleans Saints in 2019 out of BYU where he also played basketball.
At a massive 6-foot-9 and 278 pounds, it’s not hard to understand why he would have explored that route.
Kaufusi didn’t make the Saints’ 53-man roster his rookie season, joining the New York Jets practice squad instead before joining the San Francisco 49ers on a reserve/futures contract for 2021.
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It’s hard to ignore his size, at least in terms of his height, yet his relatively smaller weight could make him much more nimble than a prototypical big-bodied, tall offensive tackle.
That could theoretically work in head coach Kyle Shanahan’s offense, which requires good movement skills for offensive tackles and the ability to get out to the second levels of blocking in a shorter amount of time.
On top of that, Kaufusi once explained to the New York Daily News how doubling as a former defensive end could actually help his development:
"They always say offensive linemen are the smartest guys on the field. I think it’s being smart and patient whereas defensive linemen are all aggression. You’re coming off and you’re just hitting someone. So, it’s finding the balance of that as an offensive lineman. Yeah, you want to still hit people but you don’t want to overdo it. You don’t want to overplay the position."
Perhaps that gives Kaufusi a slight edge in his development.
Why Corbin Kaufusi doesn’t latch on with 49ers in 2021
It’s one thing to have some unique physical gifts, and Kaufusi has those. It’s another to see those translate over into success at the NFL level.
Despite being tall, Kaufusi lacks the ideal weight to stand up against stronger pass-rushers, and his height could actually work against him in terms of pad level, thereby letting those pass-rushers get underneath him.
Also, going back and forth from a defensive end to an offensive tackle might help him better understand opponents’ tendencies. But it also means there’s been a general long-term lack of actual reps at one position, cutting down on the necessary muscle memory to thrive at any one particular spot.
Chances of making 49ers’ 53-man roster
Kaufusi is the epitome of a long-shot addition to the Niners’ 53-man roster this season.
For starters, San Francisco essentially has all its starters locked into place: Trent Williams, Laken Tomlinson, Alex Mack, Daniel Brunskill/Aaron Banks and Mike McGlinchey from left to right, respectfully.
With either Brunskill or Banks a primary reserve, along with returning linemen like Shon Coleman, Colton McKivitz and Jaylon Moore all vying for regular-season roster spots, there simply isn’t going to be room for a player like Kaufusi to crack the Week 1 roster unless there are a slew of injuries up front.
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As such, Kaufusi finds himself competing with third-string options like linemen Jake Brendel, Alfredo Gutierrez and Dakoda Shepley.
It might be interesting to watch Kaufusi fight for additional snaps during training camp and the preseason, likely getting in late during games. Yet this will ultimately precede a pre-Week 1 roster cut.
Although, at least for his hopes, Kaufusi might be someone destined as a continued big-body practice squad development player.