If Jason Fanaika is going to make the 49ers’ opening-game roster, he’s going to need a terrific training camp and exhibition season.
The undrafted rookie free agent from Utah will go into camp later this month buried on the depth chart behind starters Aaron Lynch and Ahmad Brooks and the like of Eli Harold, Corey Lemonier, Tank Carradine, Ray-Ray Armstrong and Marcus Rush.
But the 49ers are intrigued by what Fanaika could provide as an edge defender and pass rusher or special teams contributor.
The 6-foot-2, 271-pounder was a defensive end for the Utes and was labeled a “high-motor player” for his team over his final two seasons. As a junior he had five sacks and 9½ tackles for loss, then added four sacks and 10½ tackles for loss his senior season when he received honorable mention on the all-Pac-12 team.
According to the pre-draft scouting report on Fanaika, he was considered to be too heavy his senior season and in line to lose some weight to be an effective NFL player, especially at outside linebacker.
His ability to “tackle with a heavy thud” and use his long arms for leverage could be a plus, however. At Utah, he was a dedicated weight lifter and the strongest player on the roster, able to bench 495 pounds and squat 830.
Some pegged Fanaika as high as a fourth-round pick, but he wound up not being selected at all, then signed with the 49ers.
But Fanaika – who played his first two seasons at Utah State – is motivated.
“I’m going to make sure a lot of teams regret not drafting me,” he told the Salt Lake Tribune.