49ers roster 2021: How Dakoda Shepley can survive cuts

Dakoda Shepley #64 of the Saskatchewan Roughriders (Photo by Brent Just/Getty Images)
Dakoda Shepley #64 of the Saskatchewan Roughriders (Photo by Brent Just/Getty Images) /

On the surface, it doesn’t appear as if 49ers reserve lineman Dakoda Shepley has a shot at the 53-man roster, but there’s a way he can survive cuts.

The San Francisco 49ers haven’t shied away from exploring potential talent north of the border up in Canada.

Most fans will recall the Bay Area native, former quarterback Jeff Garcia, who originally cut his teeth in the CFL with the Calgary Stampeders before becoming a Niners legend. And there may be other CFL prospects on the horizon for San Francisco in the not-so-distant future, too.

As far as hidden gems go, the 49ers may have one in former CFL standout, offensive lineman Dakoda Shepley, who was the 2019 selection as the Saskatchewan Roughriders Most Outstanding Rookie that year.

Born in Windsor, Ontario, Shepley previously joined the NFL as an undrafted free-agent addition of the New York Jets in 2018 but failed to crack the 53-man roster, leading to him being drafted fifth overall by the Roughriders almost simultaneously when the Jets added him. When the CFL canceled its 2020 season because of the pandemic, the 6-foot-5 and 290-pound guard tried again to crack the NFL ranks.

Landing with San Francisco in August of last year and eventually making it onto the practice squad, then active for two games late in the season.

And while Shepley is a long shot to make the 53-man roster in 2021, there is a solid outsider’s chance for him to earn a spot on the regular-season squad.

Why Dakoda Shepley improves with 49ers in 2021

Few of us have watched a lot of CFL games, so it’s hard to find a lot out there about Shepley south of the border, although the CFL didn’t hesitate to hype him during their own scouting combine:

This scouting report from Jets Fix offered up a bit more, suggesting Shepley’s versatility and prowess in both pass protection and run blocking could be pro-worthy, particularly this final assessment:

"Shepley seems likely to be a project and his positional versatility gives the team some flexibility in terms of which role he settles into.As noted, he is working as a guard at the moment and has the size and athletic ability to work well within a zone blocking scheme, although he seemed to be in more of a man/power system at UBC."

Getting into another zone-style offense, like the one the 49ers use, will be to his benefit. So will the flexibility to play either guard position or even out at tackle.

Why Dakoda Shepley remains at bottom of 49ers depth chart

It’s one thing to consider a would-be fit with the Niners, but Shepley’s skill set should still be considered raw, while the level of competition he’s faced is far inferior to the likes of the NFL ranks.

At best, Shepley remains a project and someone San Francisco can merely hope develops into a long-term halfway-decent reserve option.

From the early assessments, and the fact he didn’t cut it on a bad Jets offensive line in 2018, Shepley should still be regarded as a back-end option on an offseason depth chart, likely seeing nothing more but third-string snaps during training camp.

Chances of making 49ers’ 53-man roster

Shepley signed a reserve/futures contract for 2021, so the financials of his placement on the 49ers’ offseason roster are negligible.

The Niners are much deeper heading into this year along their O-line than in years before, particularly after adding two rookie linemen in Aaron Banks and Jaylon Moore during the NFL Draft, who’ll combine to compete with other reserves like Senio Kelemete, Tom Compton, Colton McKivitz and Corbin Kaufusi, among others, for perhaps the final roster spot on the 53-man roster.

That won’t be easy, especially with Banks and Moore likely to receive far more attention during training camp.

Yet Shepley does have his versatility working in his favor, meaning he might be one of those “uber reserves,” not unlike what San Francisco already has in the veteran, Daniel Brunskill.

Should the 49ers like what they see out of Shepley in a variety of roles between now and Week 1, he might go from a long shot to a dark-horse addition.

In reality, however, the battle will be a tough one, and the smart money would probably be on Shepley making the practice squad, nothing more.

Next. 5 Niners who show off the most in training camp. dark