The 49ers are in an interesting situation entering into training camp where an undrafted free agent may earn a starting job.
The San Francisco 49ers didn’t have a first-round selection at this year’s NFL Draft, but that didn’t mean the team didn’t come away with some interesting selections that could be making some immediate impacts.
But while there should be some players like Jackson who get onto the field during their rookie year, it’s hard to find many in the draft class who have a direct path to starting in their first season as a pro.
However, there could be a potential hole at center if Alex Mack elects to retire before the season begins, and could a highly touted undrafted free agent in Dohnovan West be the unlikely rookie that has the best path to start?
Right now, Mack is penciled in as the starting center, a role which he won’t relinquish if he actually is on the roster. But if the veteran does hang up the boots, the only veteran centers on the roster are Daniel Brunskill and Jake Brendel.
Brunskill is penciled in at guard, which is his best position despite his versatility, while Brendel is a career backup. There’s no heir apparent in the situation.
The 49ers were keen to get their hands on West during the spree of post-draft UDFA signings. Very few UDFAs boast the sort of financials that he did:
This makes West by default the top rookie at the position, at least until training camp.
If Mack leaves, then West would likely only need to take on Brendel to be the starting center, as Brunskill is unlikely to move over from his starting role at guard as San Francisco would be unwise to try to fill both guard spots from last season.
The benefit West will have is his suitability for a zone-blocking scheme like what the 49ers employ. That he fell to the UDFA ranks is a surprise, and the Niners could very well benefit from this.
It all comes down to if Mack decides to retire or not.
But if he does, then West may be the rare UDFA who could have a direct route to be a Week 1 starter in the NFL.