49ers roster 2024: Jalen Graham aims to finally crack defensive rotation

The Niners may need to test their linebacker depth in 2024, and Jalen Graham figures to be a part of that conversation.
San Francisco 49ers linebacker Jalen Graham (50)
San Francisco 49ers linebacker Jalen Graham (50) / Cooper Neill/GettyImages

After appearing solely on special teams his rookie year, Jalen Graham has an opportunity to finally see snaps on defense in 2024.

Seventh-round NFL Draft picks have an arduous and challenging journey toward making (and staying on) a team's 53-man regular-season roster.

For linebacker Jalen Graham, the San Francisco 49ers' final selection of the 2023 draft, the prospects of him doing so in year one were slim.

The Niners already boasted two of the league's best backers, Dre Greenlaw and All-Pro Fred Warner, while also having a solid backup in Demetrius Flannigan-Fowles. Additionally, San Francisco grabbed another linebacker, Dee Winters, earlier in the draft that April.

Despite the challenges, Graham managed to survive post-preseason roster cuts and stayed on the roster for the entire year.

Granted, Graham was inactive for all but four games. And he appeared solely on special teams when called upon.

Amid changes in 2024, though, Graham might be called upon to offer more services to the 49ers than what he gave last year.

Jalen Graham could be in for an increased role with 49ers in 2024

Greenlaw suffered a devastating Achilles tear during the Super Bowl last February, casting serious doubts on whether or not he'll be available for the regular season.

The Niners alleviated this to an extent by signing All-Pro linebacker De'Vondre Campbell in free agency, but the door remains open behind both Campbell and Warner. Plus, with Flannigan-Fowles ticketed for free agency in 2025, it might be time for San Francisco to let its crop of younger linebackers take some whacks.

Graham has some competition, though.

While his modest special teams prowess might help, the former Purdue Boilermaker must jockey for a spot on the depth chart alongside his 2022 draftee teammate, Winters, while also fending off the 49ers' latest final draft pick, Tatum Bethune.

Sure, the Niners could theoretically keep all five of those names on the roster, assuming Greenlaw begins 2024 on an injury list.

But Graham would love to be much more than just an occasional special teams presence when he's not part of the weekly inactive list.

Training camp and preseason games will dictate just how much progress the 6-foot-3, 220-pound second-year pro has made from his rookie season.

Should things go well, Graham could see his stock value rise and his role increase.

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