49ers Missed Player No. 2: Linebacker Justin Hilliard
The Niners would have liked to retain undrafted free-agent rookie linebacker Justin Hilliard on their practice squad, both as an insurance reserve for players like Dre Greenlaw and Fred Warner. But also because of Hilliard’s upside on special teams.
Even though San Francisco had questionable depth behind Greenlaw and Warner, it parted ways with both Hilliard and now-Denver Broncos linebacker Jonas Griffith.
In theory, it would have been nice to keep either one of the two. But considering Hilliard ended up being plucked off waivers by the New York Giants shortly after being let go, the 49ers unfortunately had to bid farewell with nothing received in return.
Hilliard’s absence could potentially be felt with Greenlaw out for at least a month in the wake of suffering a groin injury and the subsequent surgery recovery. That’s put more pressure on Warner to hold the line alongside third-year linebacker Azeez Al-Shaair.
Simply put, the Niners can’t afford to suffer any more serious injuries at this position.
Especially considering Hilliard is no longer a depth/reserve option who could have plugged a gap. Now, that player is the underwhelming veteran, Nathan Gerry, who sits on the practice squad.