3 UDFAs who must make solid impression during 49ers rookie minicamp

Undrafted free agents always face an uphill climb to make a 53-man roster, but these three can increase their chances by starting off strong at rookie minicamp.
Florida Atlantic wide receiver Terique Owens
Florida Atlantic wide receiver Terique Owens / Mark Brown/GettyImages

The 49ers brought aboard four undrafted free agents in 2024, and these three need to get off to a good start when rookie minicamp begins.

Fans love talking about rookies. But the bulk of attention always centers on those a team selects in the NFL Draft.

Not always about undrafted rookies.

After grabbing eight prospects in the 2024 draft, the San Francisco 49ers subsequently inked another eight players who went undrafted. Considering the Niners already have a stacked Super Bowl-caliber roster, it's going to be tough for any of the eight UDFAs to impress enough to a point where leaving them off the regular-season 53-man roster is not a viable option.

However, there's always a chance.

San Francisco's 2024 rookie minicamp begins this week. While most of the focus will be on the 49ers' eight draftees, watching the UDFAs should be a focal point, too.

In the case of these three undrafted prospects, a strong minicamp will be the best possible first step to carving out a niche role this season.

WR Terique Owens (Florida Atlantic)

The Niners' wide receiver room is awfully crowded behind the starting tandem of Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk, and grabbing rookies Ricky Pearsall and Jacob Cowing only makes the remaining spots on the depth chart more precarious.

Former Florida Atlantic wideout Terique Owens, son of Hall of Fame wide receiver Terrell Owens, should be a name to watch just because of his pedigree.

But the 6-foot-3, 200-pound rookie has an outsider's chance, especially if he can use his longer frame to his advantage.

"You think about the long arms, just his size," the elder Owens said of his son, via 95.7 The Game (h/t 49ers Webzone). "He's [listed at 6-3], 200 pounds. And as I did, he'll get better, he'll get bigger, he'll get stronger. Obviously, he'll get faster. A lot of people, they're gonna probably sleep on his speed. We've been working on, really, the fundamentals and the basics of route running, the transition, getting in and out of the routes."

The younger Owens easily has the most recognizable name in minicamp, which is reason alone to watch.

But a strong performance could help him emerge as a dark-horse candidate to scratch out a role on the roster.

C Drake Nugent, Michigan

The Niners took two UDFA centers after the draft, Briason Mays of Souther Mississippi and Drake Nugent of Michigan, likely as a contingency because they don't have a pure center behind the starter, Jake Brendel, on the roster.

Of the two rookies, Nugent is the player to watch closely.

The 6-foot-2, 298-pound prospect is small but makes up for it with good technique, which could translate into additional looks later this spring and summer during organized team activities and training camp.

Minicamps won't allow pads and contact, so it'll be hard to interpret Nugent's physical capabilities.

However, if he's beginning to master the concepts and movements early, it'll give Nugent a leg up for what's looking like a fluid depth chart for San Francisco's offensive line.

RB Cody Schrader, Missouri

There are plenty of running backs vying for roles behind the All-Pro, Christian McCaffrey, including first-year rookies Isaac Guerendo and UDFA Cody Schrader.

Read more: Analyzing 49ers' UDFAs and their potential fit on the roster

Unlike O-linemen, running backs can thrive at minicamp because of the lack of tackling and contact, which can help Schrader boost his stock to the point where he and Guerendo could threaten jobs currently held by returning veterans like Elijah Mitchell, Jordan Mason and Patrick Taylor Jr.

Just like how Mason outperformed a drafted player in 2023, now-Philadelphia Eagles tailback Tyrion Davis-Price, Schrader could find himself impressing to a point where head coach Kyle Shanahan has no choice but to go with the undrafted rookie on the 53-man roster.

Schrader, 5-foot-9 and 202 pounds, is a tackle-breaking machine, which means it'll be hard to see that skill on display in the non-tackling minicamps and OTAs, but his speed and elusiveness could still help separate him from the rest of the pack.

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