49ers roster: Will Kyle Shanahan trust Dohnovan West in 2022?

Dohnovan West #61 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images)
Dohnovan West #61 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images) /

It was a pleasant surprise the 49ers were able to sign Dohnovan West after he slipped through the 2022 NFL Draft, but he’s by no means guaranteed a spot on the 53-man roster.

If the San Francisco 49ers used one of their two third-round NFL Draft picks in 2022 on former Arizona State center Dohnovan West last spring, few would have complained.

After all, even before the Niners knew Pro Bowl center Alex Mack was going to retire, West was one of the better mid-range targets on draft day San Francisco could have targeted as a potential long-term replacement.

Instead, the 49ers didn’t draft West. But no one else did either, as he slipped through all seven rounds before the Niners grabbed the 6-foot-4, 300-pound prospect as an undrafted free agent.

That transaction alone could constitute a steal, as West should have been drafted. And with San Francisco having some serious interior offensive line questions in the wake of Mack’s retirement, the hope of whether or not West will turn into a hidden-gem find certainly is there.

However, just because West was a steal doesn’t automatically mean he’ll have a bona fide role for head coach Kyle Shanahan his rookie season, let alone actually making the 53-man roster.

What 49ers will want to see out of rookie Dohnovan West

Shanahan has typically sided with veterans at center ever since taking over head-coaching duties in 2017.

That alone puts West in a tough spot, where it’ll appear as if he’s destined for backup duties at most in year one. However, taking a look at his NFL.com draft scouting report, there’s a lot to like about his upside:

"Three-year starter with two-position flexibility.Quick out of stance for pulls and traps.Moves with desired body control in stalking target.Hips uncoil and roll into most every contact.Plays with leverage and tenacity at the point of attack.Football intelligence to recognize best angles available.Uses tight punch with inside hands.Widens his base to withstand a bull rush."

NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein tabbed him as a zone fit, and Shanahan should appreciate that. And while the head coach typically wants experience here, West brings that and a good football IQ for a player just coming out of college.

What holds Dohnovan West back with 49ers in year one

West might have been a draftable prospect, perhaps someone going as early as late on day two. But that doesn’t mean he’s a well-refined product.

The same scouting report highlighted a general lack of aggression, and it would appear as if West doesn’t always finish out the play. This might have worked at the college level. But going up against NFL-level pass-rushers and run blockers, he won’t have the same luxury.

There are some technique issues, too, that’ll need refinement. And Shanahan’s complex offense relies heavily on experienced centers, so there’ll be a massive learning curve for the rookie if he ever hopes to transition into a starting option.

Chances Dohnovan West makes 49ers’ 53-man roster in 2022

The bulk of the 49ers’ 2022 draft picks was intended to beef up the depth, yet there’s an opening for West to truly impress and seize a starter’s job right away.

Albeit a long one.

The Niners’ best-appearing options to replace Mack right now are Jake Brendel, Keaton Sutherland and right guard Daniel Brunskill, the latter having moved over in 2020 amid a slew of injuries to San Francisco’s O-line.

Brendel and Sutherland, both having been around the league for a while now, have a combined five starts between them. That’s not exactly a lot of experience either, and it’s surely possible West winds up outplaying both during training camp and the preseason.

Signed to a three-year deal worth up to $2.575 million, per Over the Cap, waiving West prior to Week 1 would incur $115,000 in dead money in 2022, so there’s a modest chance he hangs around based on finances alone.

Yet the 49ers won’t use up a roster spot just because of this. It’d have to boil down to him being at least equal to one of the other options at center between Brendel and Sutherland, and West still must prove he can play at that caliber.

dark. Next. Ranking 49ers' 10 best late-round NFL Draft picks of all time