49ers roster 2021: Do-or-die season for Kentavius Street

San Francisco 49ers defensive end Kentavius Street (95) Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
San Francisco 49ers defensive end Kentavius Street (95) Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports /

The 49ers haven’t gotten much out of Kentavius Street since he was drafted in 2018, and his future hinges on a productive 2021 campaign now.

Generally speaking, the San Francisco 49ers‘ worst day-three NFL Draft pick under the reign of head coach Kyle Shanahan and general manager John Lynch was the 2017 fourth-round selection of former Utah running back Joe Williams, who never suited up at the pro level.

Not far behind that pick, however, should be the 2018 Round 4 selection of former NC State defensive tackle Kentavius Street.

Granted, Street has actually played in NFL games, unlike Williams, so already he stands apart in that category. Yet Street, who had 15.5 sacks over his last two years at the collegiate level, was still something of a surprise pick by Shanahan and Lynch.

Street, after all, was coming off a torn ACL suffered during a pre-draft workout for the New York Giants. And at that moment, when the Niners made the selection, fans cringed while reminiscing about former general manager Trent Baalke’s “All-ACL” team from years prior.

To Street’s credit, he recovered after redshirting his rookie year and became part of the defensive line’s rotation the last two seasons.

But not much more than just that.

Kentavius Street Defense & Fumbles Table

Provided by Pro-Football-Reference.com
Generated 7/13/2021.

San Francisco clearly banked on Street’s power and strength, but the physical gifts of the 6-foot-2, 287-pound defender haven’t exactly translated over onto the field with any sort of regularity.

Now, entering a contract year and with a revamped D-line around him, Street is very much in jeopardy of missing out on the 53-man roster in 2021, let alone remaining a part of the 49ers’ long-term plans.

Why Kentavius Street improves with 49ers in 2021

It might be fair to chalk up Street’s slow start at the NFL level to his pre-draft injury, essentially making 2019 a year in which he was still learning pro-level nuances and yet never had a chance to provide much of an impact because of an already-deep D-line that Super Bowl season.

In 2020, amid all the injury losses this unit had, Street got his uptick in snap count, games played and even starts, playing 37 percent of the defense’s snaps that year. And while he only had 11 sacks, including one for a loss, there were some flashes of promise.

Pro Football Focus credited Street with eight quarterback hurries last year, which suggests the recently turned 25-year-old defender’s pass-rush abilities are coming around.

For a Niners team needing depth pieces within the D-line’s interior, there could be an increased opportunity for Street to make a difference.

Why Kentavius Street bottoms out with 49ers in 2021

It’s one thing to flash promise every now and then, but it’s another to make regular use of it.

The same PFF analysis that gave Street eight pressures also “awarded” him with a lowly 32.6 overall grade, brought down by a paltry 29.1 run-defense grade.

While it’s not terrible to strictly be a pass-rush specialist only at the NFL level, Street has come nowhere close to being a modest situational pass-rusher, and one can fairly assume his roster spot during the regular season would be better used to add another defensive lineman or address other areas of need elsewhere.

Not even Street’s impressive strength would be enough to save him unless those pass-rush efforts improve dramatically between now and Week 1.

Chances of making 49ers’ 53-man roster

Entering the final year of his rookie contract, Street is essentially in a make-or-break kind of season, which could determine whether or not he’ll garner any interest either from San Francisco or even another team in 2022.

Perhaps sooner, especially if Street fails to crack the 53-man roster out of training camp.

Waiving Street would cost the 49ers a little over $152,000 in dead money but with $850,000 in cap savings, should he fail to make the cut. When combined with the fact the Niners possibly upgraded the interior of the D-line by adding former Las Vegas Raiders defensive tackle Maurice Hurst during the offseason, it’s pretty safe to say Street is on the weaker side of the roster bubble.

Read More: 49ers build D-line depth by adding Maurice Hurst

Hurst will be one of Street’s primary competitors for one of perhaps four or five backup D-line spots on the regular-season roster. With two of those reserve roles likely pegged as edge rushers, and another being a nose tackle-type player, Street is essentially vying for possibly just one or two remaining spots.

It won’t be easy.

If he makes the cut, Street can hopefully resurrect his otherwise scuffling career. If not, fans will continue to question why the Niners targeted him in the first place back in 2018.

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