Instant analysis: Can 7th-round LB Tatum Bethune carve out role in Year 1?

There was already going to be a bit of a logjam for the 49ers at linebacker, and now their LB room is more crowded after the club selected Florida State’s Tatum Bethune with their final pick (251 overall) in this year’s draft.

Bethune fits the mold to play the Will linebacker spot in the 49ers’ defense. He’s 5-11, 229 pounds, but it’s not evident from watching him where he flies around and sticks his nose in with force against the run. There is plenty of athleticism and instinct in coverage to believe Bethune could become a viable coverage option as a pro. He also had good ball production in college with 14 pass breakups and four interceptions.

The problem for him finding his way onto the roster is that he’ll have Fred Warner and De’Vondre Campbell ahead of him on the depth chart. Veteran Demetrius Flannigan-Fowles is also back, along with second-year LBs Dee Winters and Jalen Graham. Dre Greenlaw’s status is uncertain after he tore his Achilles in the Super Bowl, but he could return in the 2024 campaign.

Bethune’s path to a roster spot will start on special teams, but he’ll have an opportunity during his rookie year to place himself as a potential long-term starting option in the event Greenlaw doesn’t re-sign with the 49ers this offseason. To get there though he’ll need to outperform both Winters and Graham who looked good in preseason action last year.

There are plenty of tools for Bethune to become a starting LB in the NFL. Now he has to prove it in a crowded, but largely unproven LB room.

Story originally appeared on Niners Wire