49ers roster 2021: Nate Sudfeld to beat out Josh Rosen?

Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Nate Sudfeld (7) Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports
Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Nate Sudfeld (7) Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports /

It’s not the most provocative 49ers training camp battle, but Nate Sudfeld will look to beat out Josh Rosen for the team’s QB3 role in 2021.

The San Francisco 49ers have a crucial competition at quarterback heading into 2021 training camp.

And if you’re thinking it’s going to be the one between Jimmy Garoppolo and the rookie, Trey Lance, you’re correct.

Somewhat buried in all that hype, however, is another intriguing quarterback battle between the two candidates to assume the No. 3 spot on the depth chart: Josh Rosen and Nate Sudfeld.

While Rosen is by far the bigger high-profile name, thanks to him being the No. 10 overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, Sudfeld may actually stand a better chance of making the Niners’ 53-man roster in 2021 as the third-string quarterback. And while there’s nothing particularly jumping out about his pro-level career thus far, he does have a working rapport with San Francisco’s quarterbacks coach, Rich Scangarello, who worked with Sudfeld last year as well with the Philadelphia Eagles.

Nate Sudfeld Passing Table

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

Sudfeld, originally drafted by the Washington Football Team in Round 6 of the 2016 draft, found himself backing up three different Eagles quarterbacks — Carson Wentz, Nick Foles and, most recently, Jalen Hurts — during his four-year tenure there.

And if Sudfeld outperforms Rosen during training camp with the 49ers, the former could easily wind up backing up Garoppolo and Lance, too.

Sudfeld will have to win that competition, though.

Why Nate Sudfeld shows promise with 49ers in 2021

Scangarello, the same assistant who helped discover and develop now-Eagles quarterback Nick Mullens in 2018, probably had a lot to do with the Niners inking Sudfeld to a one-year free-agent deal during the offseason.

Expectations should be low, but Scangarello’s ability to turn Mullens, a low-profile undrafted free agent, into a modest reserve quarterback capable of starting in a pinch could potentially work well for Sudfeld’s own development.

There are enough scouting reports from Sudfeld’s days at Indiana to suggest he has some quality NFL tools, including a solid arm and some touch here and there, but those reports also cited his inability to work through progressions.

This might not be too big a problem, though, if Sudfeld is given easy reads, which Mullens had plenty of last year but simply couldn’t make his throws because of a general lack of arm strength.

Why Nate Sudfeld fails to impress 49ers in 2021

Those same scouting reports mentioned Sudfeld is far too inconsistent with his accuracy, and last year’s lowly 41.7 completion percentage on 12 pass attempts seems to back that up.

True, the Eagles’ crop of pass-catchers in 2020 wasn’t exactly of the eye-popping variety, so perhaps Sudfeld deserves a bit of a pass. Yet there are plenty of reasons why he has primarily been a third-string backup for much of his career.

That lack of accuracy could be the primary reason why, even with Scangarello helping, Sudfeld loses points with head coach Kyle Shanahan. Just like Mullens, who regularly made the correct reads but couldn’t hit his intended targets, Sudfeld could suffer a similar fate and not be someone upon whom Shanahan would want to rely.

Chances of making 49ers’ 53-man roster

Rosen got the bulk of third-string reps during media-attended organized team activities, although non-open practices could have feasibly showcased more of Sudfeld.

If there is something working in Sudfeld’s favor, though, it’s his contract numbers. Rosen has zero in guaranteed money, whereas San Francisco gave $252,000 in guaranteed money on his one-year deal, per Over the Cap.

From a financial perspective, Sudfeld seems to have the advantage. And while a shade over $250,000 in dead money isn’t terrible in the grand scheme of things, it’s a lot to pay out to a third-string backup if he fails to make the roster.

Read More: 3 possible trade spots for Jimmy Garoppolo before Week 1

There is a small possibility both Rosen and Sudfeld make the cut, however, but that would be predicated on Lance winning the starting job and the 49ers jettisoning Garoppolo.

Yet the more likely situation would be a training camp battle between Sudfeld and Rosen for the QB3 role, which will carry over into preseason.

And both quarterbacks figure to get plenty of looks during that three-game stint, even though it’s not the quarterbacking competition most fans will pay attention to.

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