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May 22, 2012
The Who: Under-the-radar 49ers who have a shot

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Interested in Randy Moss, Alex Smith or Michael Crabtree? Don't worry. Forests worth of paper (and internet space) will be devoted to those A-list athletes this offseason. But there are some obscure players who are interesting, too.

I'm not saying these guys will make the 53-man squad. But here are a few players who aren't household names - heck, most of them weren't even drafted - who are intriguing this offseason. The first week of OTAs begins today.

OL Derek Hall: The 49ers have an embarrassment of riches on the offensive line. Hall, who played offensive tackle at Stanford, lined up at center during the 49ers' recent minicamp and he has the ability to play all five positions along the offensive line. At 6-5, 307 pounds, Hall has good size, is smart and by all accounts has been a tireless worker for the 49ers. Perhaps most intriguing is the fact that he is a relative newcomer to offensive line after beginning his stay at Stanford as a defensive lineman. That is, he has potential. Hall's issue is that the 49ers are teeming with multi-talented linemen - Daniel Kilgore, Mike Person and Alex Boone to name a few. Hall spent last season on the practice squad and is eligible this year, too.

S Michael Thomas: Like draft pick Trenton Robinson, Thomas is on the small side - he's a shade under 5-10 and weighed 185 pounds at Stanford's pro day. But he's been productive with the Cardinal and is very familiar to Jim Harbaugh having played since his freshman year. Thomas showed very good athleticism at his pro day (10-foot, four-inch long jump; 38-inch vertical jump) but perhaps his biggest advantage is the lack of bodies at safety. Taylor Mays, Reggie Smith and Madieu Williams are no longer on the roster and Dashon Goldson likely will miss a big chunk of the offseason. That means Thomas and some other young safeties - such as 2011 practice squadder Cory Nelms - promise to see a lot of action this offseason.

OLB Eric Bakhtiari - He seemed to be the most comfortable and in-control player at the team's recent rookie minicamp. And why not? He was the oldest and most experienced player out there. Bakhtiari has bounced around several teams' practice squads, including the 49ers', since entering the league in 2008. He's also familiar to Harbaugh having played for him at the University of San Diego. Meanwhile, the 49ers wanted to bulk up their outside linebacking corps this offseason after having only three players at the position last year. However, one of the newcomers, draft pick Darius Fleming, likely will miss the season with a torn ACL. That means Bakhtiari essentially is competing with seventh-round pick Cam Johnson for a spot on the roster.

ILB Joe Holland - He also stood out at the rookie minicamp. Holland is undersized - he began his stay at Purdue as a safety - and he's not going to threaten Patrick Willis or NaVorro Bowman or even Larry Grant for their jobs. But he has "special teams ace" written all over him. If the 49ers again plan to carve out roster spots for special teamers, Holland appears to have a shot at the 53-man roster.

CB Curtis Holcomb - Holcomb won the ignominious "Bad Luck Award" after rupturing his Achilles tendon during a conditioning test at the start of last year's training camp. He was a seventh-round pick in 2011 who will be taking part in his first-ever NFL team drill today. Holcomb has good size, excellent speed and is the type of physical cornerback Trent Baalke has sought in the late rounds and in free agency in recent years. He's essentially an extra draft pick this year.

TE Konrad Reuland -- The Garbage Man caught everything thrown his way last offseason no matter how bad the pass. After Delanie Walker went down with a broken jaw in December, there was some debate about whether to elevate Reuland from the practice squad. The team ultimately chose not to put Walker on injured reserve. Reuland needed to improve his blocking last year, and that will be something to keep an eye on this year. That, plus the health of fellow tight end Nate Byham, who is coming back from a torn ACL, will determine whether there's a spot for Reuland on the roster.

• Even though their schools have not had their end-of-year graduation ceremony yet, Stanford's Thomas, Northwestern offensive lineman Al Netter and Wisconsin defensive lineman Patrick Butrym will be able to take part in the OTA because they've already fulfilled their graduation requirements. Oregon's LaMichael James and Stanford's Chris Owusu and Matt Masifilo will not take part because they have not yet graduated.

• Veteran players like center Jonathan Goodwin and punter Andy Lee, who have been working out on their own, are in town for the OTA. The only player not expected to be on hand is safety Dashon Goldson, who has not yet signed his franchise tag tender.

-- Matt Barrows



MATTHEW BARROWS

Matt was born in Blacksburg, Va., and attended the University of Virginia. He graduated in 1995, went to Northwestern for a journalism degree a year later, and got his first job at a South Carolina daily in 1997. He joined The Bee as a Metro reporter in 1999 and started covering the 49ers in 2003. His favorite player of all time is Darrell Green.

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