We’ve heard a lot about draft grades and late-round steals.
The 49ers have their fair share of promising late-round acquisitions this year. Wide receiver Bruce Ellington, center Marcus Martin, and outside linebacker Aaron Lynch are among the names that come to mind as notable draft steals. Former Wisconsin inside linebacker, Chris Borland, is also a name getting a lot of attention with the 49ers needing immediate help at the inside linebacker position.
One name that could prove to be the steal of the offseason was not even drafted. The name I’m talking about is former Stanford inside linebacker and undrafted free agent, Shayne Skov. For those that haven’t heard of Skov, the 6-foot-3, 247-pound linebacker made big waves at Stanford not only for his trademark Mohawk hairstyle and John Randle-esque eyeblack, but also his defensive play. In 2013 Skov led Stanford with 109 tackles (62 solo), 13.0 tackles for loss, 5.5 sacks and three forced fumbles.
Skov began his career at Stanford under Jim Harbaugh. Skov made an immediate impact and earned the starting job for the second-half of the 2009 season. Skov was a rising star at Stanford. He unfortunately suffered an ACL/MCL tear in the third game of his junior year. Skov sat out the remainder of the season and returned in 2012. Skov finished his career sixth on the school’s all-time-tackles list.
Last week, Skov watched 256 of his peers were drafted without having his name called. Skov was initially rumored to sign with the Raiders, but instead insisted he was going to the 49ers. Skov can be the steal of this offseason as he is ready to hit the ground running and compete for the starting job to fill injured NaVorro Bowman’s position. Between the rookies, I believe Skov is more game-ready than Borland. Skov is hungry and is playing with a chip on his shoulder for all the teams that passed him up.
Skov is one of those players that seems to just “fit” with the 49ers system. He played under 49ers defensive coordinator Vic Fangio and says he’s familiar with the 49ers system of defense. This familiarity should help Skov transition to the NFL nicely. Skov displayed his maturity and humility by accepting any role he can with the organization, even if that means watching and learning the game through others.
It is no certainty that Skov will even make this year’s 53-man roster. He does, however, have the drive and determination to create a legitimate position battle this offseason. As it stands, without NaVorro Bowman, the 49ers currently have Michael Wilhoite and second-year Nick Moody in addition to Skov and Borland. Skov will undoubtedly make his presence known and compete ferociously for a roster spot. Skov is among several 49ers who have been given a second-chance following a devastating injury. As with any rookie — drafted or undrafted — there is no guarantee that they will live up to their potential.
It’s too early to know if Skov’s talents will translate into on-field success. I do think Skov will open a lot of eyes this offseason and be a legitimate contender for the starting inside linebacker role. Skov is a man on a mission looking to prove the doubters wrong. I’m just glad he’ll be playing on our side of the gridiron.
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