Colton McKivitz was already on the fringes of the 49ers roster a year ago, and his prospects for making the 2022 cut won’t be any easier.
The San Francisco 49ers have only a few glaring question marks entering the 2022 season, and one of them is surely the offensive line. In the wake of losing two Pro Bowlers, Laken Tomlinson and Alex Mack, the O-line’s interior could be shaky at best or an outright disaster.
Considering that, it would make sense that third-year offensive lineman Colton McKivitz would have a better shot at making the 53-man roster, right?
Not so fast.
The Niners’ fifth-round pick from the 2020 NFL Draft out of West Virginia found himself on the outside, looking in when the team formulated its 2021 regular-season roster and despite significant concerns about the O-line’s depth that year. It appeared as if San Francisco was more intrigued with its 2021 rookie backup, Jaylon Moore, than McKivitz.
However, the 49ers losing right tackle Mike McGlinchey to a season-ending quad injury halfway through last season opened up the door for McKivitz to earn a promotion from the practice squad and onto the 53-man roster.
He played in just one game in 2021, though, with 70 offensive snaps in that contest.
Entering year three, the 25-year-old McKivitz could land an opportunity to serve a key role on the depth chart, or he could find himself off the roster altogether.
Let’s break it all down.
Why Colton McKivitz improves with 49ers in 2022
With a year-plus of data on McKivitz dating back to the beginning of his rookie season, a general consensus might suggest he’s OK as a run blocker and sub-par in pass protection.
Pro Football Focus backed this up, crediting him with a lowly 49.9 pass-blocking grade his rookie season, which surely downgraded his 53.1 overall mark. Reflecting on those 70 offensive snaps from 2021, PFF also credited him with two sacks allowed.
From that perspective, though, there’s only one direction to go: up.
McKivitz, a collegiate tackle who was pegged as a pro-level guard, understandably was going to need some development time, so his third year might finally reveal an adequate acclimation to the Niners’ offense.
Why Colton McKivitz has already bottomed out
Keep in mind, San Francisco elected to keep now-Denver Broncos lineman Tom Compton over McKivitz at the outset of 2021 despite already having lost reserve tackle Justin Skule to a season-ending ACL tear earlier that offseason.
With Moore also in the mix, McKivitz didn’t exactly seem to have any favor despite the 49ers’ O-line depth concerns a year ago.
Even if McKivitz has made strides in his development, it already appears he’s trailing players like Skule and Moore on the pre-training camp depth chart.
Possibly some new additions, too.
Chances Colton McKivitz makes 49ers’ 53-man roster
Moore and Skule will compete with McKivitz for one of probably three backup-lineman spots this season.
But those aren’t the only faces to watch.
The Niners added two more rookies via the 2022 NFL Draft, linemen Spencer Burford and Nick Zakelj, both of whom are somewhat like McKivitz in that they can be flexible enough to serve as either a backup tackle or guard. Additionally, undrafted rookie linemen like Dohnovan West and Jason Poe are in the mix.
Currently, according to Over the Cap, McKivitz is scheduled to cost San Francisco $895,000 with zero in guarantees and no dead money, should he be let go again like he was in advance of the 2021 regular season.
That’s fairly shaky ground for the lineman. Not only is he unsafe from a financial perspective, but the 49ers adding four more rookie linemen who are gunning for his job also makes his prospects for hanging onto a roster spot that much tougher.
Perhaps McKivitz outshines his competition in training camp, though, and that would certainly be the best route to take if he wants to truly stick around in a bigger role with San Francisco.