Evan Anderson could end up being a total steal for 49ers

The Niners have been looking for a D.J. Jones-like player ever since he left the team in 2022.

And they may have found one in the undrafted Evan Anderson.

Florida Atlantic defensive tackle Evan Anderson (8)
Florida Atlantic defensive tackle Evan Anderson (8) / Jeff Romance / USA TODAY NETWORK

The 49ers grabbed rookie Evan Anderson as an undrafted free agent, and he could end up being their next hidden gem of a find.

The San Francisco 49ers have something of a knack for finding hidden-gem talents late in the NFL Draft or even as undrafted free agents.

In 2017, the first year under general manager John Lynch and head coach Kyle Shanahan, one of those late-round finds was nose tackle D.J. Jones, who was selected by the Niners in Round 6 and became a starting-caliber defensive tackle who'd turn the defense into one of the league's best against the run.

But Jones left via free agency in 2022, and San Francisco struggled to find an adequate replacement to fill the void.

Perhaps that changes in 2024.

The 49ers didn't address their defensive line via the 2024 draft, although they did make moves earlier in the offseason via trade and free agency. But one of their undrafted free-agent pickups, Evan Anderson out of Florida Atlantic, could wind up being the next version of Jones for Shanahan's defense.

Why 49ers should be enamored with Evan Anderson

UDFAs typically face massive hurdles when it comes to making a 53-man roster. Most are merely looking to hang around, perhaps on a practice squad or getting onto special teams as a third-string offensive or defensive backup, at best.

But it's clear the Niners liked Anderson a lot when they signed him, giving him $280,000 in guaranteed money as part of his contract, according to NFL insider Aaron Wilson:

Related story: Analyzing each 49ers UDFA and how they potentially fit on the roster

That's a lot for an undrafted player, and it's a good sign the 6-foot-0, 319-pound Anderson could make the 53-man roster in year one.

What else could entice San Francisco to go this route, though?

Anderson, who tallied seven sacks and 20 tackles for a loss over his four collegiate seasons, is pegged to be a 1-technique two-down interior lineman who can eliminate interior rushing lines by his presence alone.

That was a primary 49ers defensive weakness a year ago, particularly when now-Jacksonville Jaguars defensive tackle Arik Armstead was out of the lineup because of injury.

This path is close to how Jones began his career with the Niners, eventually working himself into being a starting-caliber interior lineman.

But Jones wasn't working with defensive line coach Kris Kocurek way back in 2017; a luxury Anderson will have in 2024. And Kocurek, speaking to reporters, is already signing the rookie's praises:

"Every time I put on the tape, he kind of reminded me of a player we had here in the past, D.J. Jones," Kocurek told Larry Krueger of 95.7 The Game.

Jones was a hidden gem. It's possible, perhaps likely Anderson winds up being in the same mold.

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