Insider analysis: Brett Swain

Brett Swain brings a Super Bowl ring but not much of a resume as a wide receiver to the 49ers. Swain couldn't stick with the Packers and their stable of world-class wideouts, but he does offer skills that could help the Niners. Packers expert Bill Huber, publisher of, covered Swain on a daily basis in Green Bay and stops by NinersDigest to share his insight on the newest 49er.

Bill Huber, Publisher of Packer Report magazine and Brett Swain is a hard-working guy who certainly isn't going to wow anyone with his ability. He's not a real big guy and he's never been fast – and that was before tearing an ACL in 2009.

The Packers retained Swain as an exclusive-rights free agent at the end of last season, but he had absolutely no chance to make the team this season after the Packers used a second-round pick on impressive Randall Cobb and re-signed veteran James Jones during free agency.

With Cobb and Jones, Swain entered training camp knowing full well that he couldn't be any more than the sixth receiver on a team that would take only five into the regular season.

He caught six passes in 22 career games with the Packers. As those stats would suggest, he never was a big part of the offense.

The main reason for that was the talent ahead of him on the depth chart. Obviously, Swain would never be a featured part of the game plan with Pro Bowlers Greg Jennings and Donald Driver starting and proven and productive backups Jordy Nelson and Jones behind them.

That said, Swain never really impressed me on offense. Maybe that's because I was comparing him to the guys ahead of him in the pecking order.

He runs good routes and has pretty good hands. Still, even if Jones had signed elsewhere in free agency, I thought Swain would be hard-pressed to beat out Chastin West to be the Packers' fifth receiver.

Really, Swain's niche was on special teams, and I assume that will be the case with the Niners at the start.

He's not a kick returner but he's done some good work as a gunner on the punt team, jammer on the punt return team and one of the outside guys on the kickoff unit. He tied for the team lead with seven special-teams tackles during the playoffs.

Craig Massei's take: As with everything that happens these days with the Jim Harbaugh 49ers, the signing of Swain to replace injured starting wideout Josh Morgan on the 53-man roster must be viewed as part of the big picture and the team's master plan. That's why the Niners went with the relatively unknown and unproven Swain over the several established, high-profile veterans the team worked out along with Swain on Tuesday at 49ers headquarters. T.J. Houshmandzadeh, Chris Chambers and Brian Finneran each were part of the group that auditioned before the team, and that's a trio that has combined for 1,394 receptions and 120 touchdowns in the NFL. But Chambers is the youngest of that group at 33, and the Niners obviously were looking for some young blood that could fit in and have a contributing role on special teams rather than a proven pass-catcher that could ostensibly step onto the field immediately and offer San Francisco a veteran target and experienced set of hands. With No. 1 wideout Braylon Edwards set to return at full strength after the bye week, the 49ers feel comfortable enough with Michael Crabtree, Ted Ginn Jr. and youngster Kyle Williams handling the front-line roles at wide receiver, particularly with hybrid tight end Delanie Walker around to take on an even more prominent role as a receiving target. A best-days-behind-him veteran such as Houshmandzadeh or Chambers, while attractive on the surface, wasn't going to come in after a few days of practice this week and usurp the trio of young holdovers in the game plan Sunday against the Detroit Lions. So the Niners made a much more pragmatic choice in Swain, who can step in as an emergency No. 4 receiver if needed but more importantly will be able to step in on special teams since he will likely be one of the 46 San Francisco players active against the Lions. It's there that Swain can actually help the 49ers right away – as Bill Huber says, Swain found his niche on special teams with the Packers and was one of Green Bay's leading contributors on those units during the Pack's amazing postseason run. Swain had a game-high three tackles in Green Bay's 31-25 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers in Super Bowl XLV last February. Swain didn't catch any passes, but quarterback Aaron Rodgers did throw his way twice during the game. Swain also has experience in the West Coast offensive system that's similar to the one now being used by the 49ers. And, having played against Detroit twice a year in the NFC North, he also has good familiarity with this week's opponent. In all regards, Swain seems to be a logical choice for what the Niners need in the here and now – a special teams performer who can step on the field if needed at wide receiver and not be lost in his role or the system. Swain's also a guy who can stick on the roster after Edwards returns, particularly for a team that is putting so much emphasis on special teams.

Niners Digest Top Stories