After going undrafted and spending his rookie 2022 season on the 49ers practice squad, Tayler Hawkins might look to finally scratch the back end of the 53-man roster.
There were probably a few points over the course of the 2022 season when the San Francisco 49ers thought they could call up then-rookie safety Tayler Hawkins from the practice squad.
Hawkins, who went undrafted out of San Diego State in the 2022 NFL Draft, signed on with the Niners and even made a splash of an interception during San Francisco's final preseason tilt that year against the Minnesota Vikings.
Yet that wasn't enough to garner a spot on the 53-man roster, though. Instead, Hawkins spent his rookie year on the practice squad but might have been close to being called up, thanks to varying injuries within the 49ers' defensive backfield over the course of the season.
It never happened, though. Hawkins is still looking for his first-ever regular-season snaps.
Given some changes within the Niners' secondary heading into 2023, could Hawkins finally get his chance this year?
Tayler Hawkins has an easier road to 49ers' 53-man roster in 2023
The 6-foot-1, 205-pound safety was looking at a pretty loaded safety crop a season ago, which included starters like Jimmie Ward, Talanoa Hufanga and Tashaun Gipson, as well as primary reserve options in Tarvarius Moore and George Odum.
While Hawkins can play some cornerback, it'll be safety where he'll fit most.
Now, entering 2023, Ward and Moore have departed via free agency, yet San Francisco used its top pick in the NFL Draft on former Penn State safety Ji'Ayir Brown, and he could possibly be a day-one starter if he beats out someone like Gipson. Additionally, the 49ers signed former Carolina Panthers defensive back Myles Hartsfield, and his versatility could also challenge Hawkins for a spot.
Where Hawkins fits into all of this is whether or not he can serve as a better backup than Hartsfield while also offering up special teams value not far off from Odum.
Both of which will be hard to achieve.
Will Tayler Hawkins make 49ers' regular-season squad?
Hawkins is certainly in a much better position to crack the 53-man roster this year than in 2022, and there is enough physical ability to suggest he could offer something to the active roster.
However, a number of things would have to go Hawkins' way.
For starters, he'd have to impress like crazy during training camp and the preseason, as he's not going to beat out players like Hufanga, Gipson, Odum or Brown for a roster spot. Second, he'd have to be notably better than Hartsfield, who is essentially a hand-picked free-agent grab by new defensive coordinator Steve Wilks.
Lastly, Hawkins will have to show some serious prowess on special teams if he's going to hang around.
What's more likely, though, is Hawkins begins the year on the practice squad, assuming another team out there doesn't pluck him away, and then receives a call-up or two at some point during the regular season, either to reinforce depth somewhere or to alleviate an injury.
Perhaps that's when he'll finally get those first regular-season snaps.