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The 2018 season was a banner year for the San Francisco 49ers practice squad. Quarterback Nick Mullens and running back Jeff Wilson Jr. were both major contributors down the stretch. Mullens is a shining example of how an undrafted player can spend more than a full season on the practice squad and still have a big impact once his number is called. Who is primed to be the next breakout player from the practice squad?
The first player that comes to mind is cornerback Tarvarus McFadden. The undrafted defensive back out of Florida State has the ideal 6’2” height to play cornerback in Robert Saleh’s defense. McFadden was productive in college as he was able to register 8 interceptions and 16 pass break-ups. The 49ers also have a need in the secondary; the team was ranked 28th in points allowed with most of the touchdowns being given up through the air.
Another position that has question marks on the depth chart is wide receiver. Last season, Kendrick Bourne led all 49ers' receivers with 42 catches for 487 yards. This was the fewest yards to lead a team from a wide receiver across the entire league. Steven Dunbar was a fan favorite during training camp and the preseason before the start of the 2018 campaign. Dunbar’s final season at the University of Houston netted more than 1,000 receiving yards. He was also a late-season call up and was active for the Week 17 game against the Los Angeles Rams. New WR coach Wes Welker will look to get the most out of every receiver on the roster, Dunbar included.
Linebacker Tyrell Adams has spent multiple seasons bouncing from team to team, practice squad to practice squad. He has made appearances in 16 games and tallied 18 total tackles since signing with the Seattle Seahawks as an undrafted free agent in 2015. Adams could be yet another player to benefit from a lack of talent at his position. Beyond LB Fred Warner, the 49ers do not have any sure things at linebacker and Adams’ prior knowledge of the defensive scheme could land him a roster spot in 2019.
At the end of the day, the practice squad proves to be more important than many believe. Stashing quality players at positions of need can help a team get through injuries that stack up as the season plugs along. The 49ers practice squad will certainly look different at the start of the 2019 season, however, keep an eye on these players throughout the offseason workouts and OTAs.
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