Thanks to a much improved list, the San Francisco 49ers did not sign a large undeveloped class of free agents. This may be due to the number or lack of such recruits, which the team can bring to their off-season training.
Anyway, we only saw a few names associated with Niners after the draft was completed. One of those names was Ohio state backer Justin Hilliard, another Senior Bowl player.
Pro Football Focus lists the top 10 unsigned signatures of free agents for the NFL Draft in 2021, and Hillard is sixth on the list:
6. LB JUSTIN HILLIARD,, SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS
Hilliard was Ohio’s best defender last season. He recorded an 80.0 plus PFF rating for protection and coverage, eventually winning a third-round rating from PFF’s Mike Renner in PFF’s 2021 NFL Project Guide. The bottom line of Hilliard’s Scout Report reads: “If he stays healthy, Hilliard has a universal set of skills that can fit into any next-level scheme.”
The 49ers have lost defensive coordinator Robert Saleh, so it’s uncertain whether the defense will have the same strength it once had, but Hilliard should be a very valuable addition, especially with his value as a non-compiled free agent.
Sports Info Solutions ranked Hilliard as the eighth best weakback in the project and gave him the same rating as his college teammate Pete Warner, who was ranked No. 60 overall:
Hilliard has a long history of injuries, some teams may fail to pass, but he still has a solid set of skills and a high engine to be a universal reserve.
Hilliard is designing as a backup in the NFL, who can play both Will and Mike. However, its size and profile for convenience of coverage are better as a will. He has struggled with injuries throughout his career, but still has athletic skills to influence three falls if he stays healthy. Its speed and endurance should be evaluated in the start and punt teams.
Unless Samson Ebukam starts from SAM linebacker and switches to edge rusher in subpacks, the third backback that starts for 49ers will be a free agent. It will reach Azeez Al-Shaair, Demetrius Flannigan-Fowles and Jonas Griffith. San Francisco signed with Nathan Gary of the Eagles, but he was one of the worst defenders in the NFL last year.
Hilliard is fighting a tough battle, but will not be competing against previously selected drafts. His goal should be to win a place in special teams before he can finally determine his role in defense.
This should be the goal of most of the selected projects for Day 3 and UDFA.