49ers roster 2023: Longshot odds might be enough for UDFA Joey Fisher

The 49ers grabbed offensive lineman Joey Fisher as an undrafted free agent, and he doesn't have a chance at all to make the 53-man roster, right? Right?
Shepherd University offensive lineman Joey Fisher
Shepherd University offensive lineman Joey Fisher / Ric Dugan/Herald-Mail / USA TODAY

Joey Fisher has a long and arduous road to make the 49ers' 53-man roster his rookie year, but the path is certainly there for him.

Everyone loves an underdog story, and that's precisely what we're looking at when evaluating San Francisco 49ers rookie offensive lineman Joey Fisher.

Fisher, a small-school offensive tackle prospect out of Shepherd, didn't hear his name called during the 2023 NFL Draft and subsequently signed as an undrafted free agent of the Niners not long after Round 7 concluded.

Usually, UDFAs have the slimmest of odds when it comes to making a 53-man regular-season roster. Most wind up being extra bodies to round out 90-man offseason rosters during training camp and into the preseason. For some, they wind up on the practice squad with the hope of developing into a rostered player at some point down the road.

For others, it's a brief pro-level experience before the NFL door closes for good.

Fisher might have been something of a San Francisco steal, though, as NFL.com draft analyst Lance Zierlein actually tabbed him as a fourth- or fifth-round prospect, writing:

"Three-year starter and team captain with NFL size, toughness and athletic qualities. Fisher bullied his level of competition on a regular basis. He’s thick and powerful with the clinch strength and balance to sustain blocks through contact, but a move up in competition will surely test him right out of the gate. Fisher plays with more advanced elements of pass protection than is typical of his level of competition. His lateral quickness and athleticism should have him set as a move blocker and when mirroring athletic rushers in protection. Fisher has the traits and talent to slide from tackle to guard and become a solid NFL starter."

With his build, that's likely the case for Fisher. Yet he'll have his work cut out for him if he hopes to somehow squeak his way onto the regular-season squad in year one.

Joey Fisher's tenure with 49ers didn't get off to a strong start

For many rookies, the leap to the pros is a challenging one. And it's an ongoing challenge, too, especially the increased travel and elongated regular-season schedule.

Fisher's NFL career didn't exactly get off to a strong start, though, as he wasn't physically prepared to finish rookie minicamp, the first chance he had to introduce himself to the 49ers coaching staff, as Sports Illustrated's Grant Cohn broke down last spring:

Conditioning can be a problem for any player regardless of tenure, but a UDFA like Fisher is already fighting uphill odds.

Particularly when the Niners already have other candidates to round out the O-line's depth chart in camp.

What is there to like about 49ers OL Joey Fisher?

San Francisco didn't use a draft pick on an O-lineman this year despite losing right tackle Mike McGlinchey and reserve lineman Daniel Brunskill to free agency.

No, instead, the 49ers feel as if they have on-roster options like Colton McKivitz and Spencer Burford, and those two effectively being handed starting jobs should make it easier for someone like Fisher to survive the cut.

Despite his sluggish start at rookie minicamp, there are some positive traits to like, as Niner Noise's resident NFL Draft expert Jeremy Wohlfart pointed out:

"Fisher measured in at 6-foot-4 and 296 pounds, and at 25 years of age, he's unlikely to be able to add more weight to his frame. This will make him either an undersized right tackle or a guard in the NFL, but he has good strength for the NFL and is already an excellent asset in the running game with his ability to blast open running lanes."

In all likelihood, Fisher will be competing with other third-string linemen in camp, such as Alfredo Gutierrez, Keith Ismael, Corey Luciano and Ilm Manning, all of whom have long odds at making the Niners' 53-man roster.

However, it's certainly possible Fisher turns heads and proves to be much better than an undrafted player would typically seem.

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