Bradley Pinion already has taken one job from a 49ers veteran. Could he do it to another?
Pinion, the Clemson punter taken in the fifth round of last month’s draft, also has a kickoff background, and he’ll likely at least get a chance to handle that role this season.
Phil Dawson, the 49ers’ kicker, said last week he’d prefer to continue his kickoff duties but will leave that decision to the coaches. Dawson, who turned 40 in January, is the oldest player on the 49ers.
But he noted that his 43.8-percent touchback percentage last season was the best of his career. Which is to say, an older kicking leg does not necessarily translate into a weaker one. He also made 6 of 9 field-goal attempts from 50 yards or longer in 2014, including one from 55 yards.
Still, the 49ers ranked 24th last season in touchback percentage, and there’s a sense that the 6-foot-5, 230-pound Pinion, 21, could boost that figure. He once had a 100-yard kickoff at a high school kicking showcase.
At Clemson, 92 of Pinion’s 180 kickoffs – 51 percent – resulted in a touchback.
Drafting Pinion prompted the 49ers to trade their longtime punter, Andy Lee, to the Browns this month. The 49ers received a conditional draft pick in the deal. At worst, the 49ers will get a seventh-round pick in 2017 from Cleveland.