2007 49ers training camp: Camp sleepers

The first practice of 49ers training camp is a dozen days away, and SFI will count down to the start of the team's summer session with more analysis of key players along with a look at top positional battles and a breakdown and projections of the key focal points of camp. Today the countdown begins with a look at players who enter the summer as camp sleepers that could catch everybody by surprise.

MARCUS MAXWELL: After leading NFL Europe with seven receiving touchdowns during a breakout, all-league performance overseas this spring, the big, athletic prospect will get a long look this summer among the team's crowded receiver corps. Maxwell has been on the fringe of the San Francisco roster since the 49ers selected him in the seventh round of the 2005 NFL draft, but when given an opportunity to get on the field for extensive playing time, Maxwell shined brightly in Europe and gave a huge glimpse of his potential. Maxwell had 32 receptions for 499 yards and the seven TDs during the regular season, then capped off that performance by catching five passes for 127 yards and two more touchdowns to spark the Hamburg Sea Devils to a 37-28 victory over the Frankfurt Galaxy in the final World Bowl championship game. At 6-foot-4 and 205 pounds, Maxwell has the physical tools, and he proved this spring that he knows how to use them.

THOMAS CLAYTON: The sixth-round draft pick opened some eyes during spring drills and the team is anxious to see what he can do in pads as he competes with Michael Robinson and Maurice Hicks for backup carries behind Frank Gore. Clayton has a powerful burst and slashing style that would fit nicely into San Francisco's offensive system, but he has players ahead of him on the depth chart who have experience in that system and also are proven commodities on special teams. But if Clayton can prove he's more productive out of the backfield than Robinson or Hicks, he could climb quickly into a prominent role behind Gore.

LUKE GETSY: The undrafted rookie free agent from Akron made an impression on coach Mike Nolan during the spring and could push incumbent Shaun Hill for the No. 3 role at quarterback. There wasn't any extensive buzz about Getsy coming out of college, but he did produce quality back-to-back seasons as the starting quarterback at Akron University after transferring from the University of Pittsburgh following his sophomore season. Getsy has good pocket awareness, good size at 6-foot-2 and 222 pounds, and he threw for 6,117 yards and 41 touchdowns over the past two seasons, when he also displayed leadership by taking Akron to its first Mid-American Conference championship and first Division I-A bowl game in 2005.

JOHN SYPTAK: The team can't have enough edge rushers in its move to the 3-4 scheme, and this first-year player showed some nice presence in NFL Europe this spring while leading the Frankfurt Galaxy with 5.5 sacks and two forced fumbles. At 6-foot-1 and 253 pounds, Syptak will have to show that he has the speed and agility to play on the outside edge in a 3-4 system, but he displayed play-making ability in Europe while helping lead the Frankfurt Galaxy to the World Bowl.

C.J. BREWER: This rangy, athletic prospect made quite an impression as a member of the team's practice squad last year and, like Maxwell, he won't get overlooked this summer. Brewer showed some polish in his game while running crisp routes and catching the ball when given the opportunity in team drills during last season. At 6-foot-2 and 205 pounds, he has the size to make it in the NFL, and after showing he belonged last year, Brewer could emerge at a position where several roster candidates enter the summer lumped together.

MARK WASHINGTON: Washington is an intriguing prospect who has the size (6-foot-4, 253 pounds) and skill set to fit into San Francisco's 3-4 system at outside linebacker. The rookie recently signed a two-year deal with the team as a free agent after he was not selected in the NFL's supplemental draft earlier this month. Washington comes in under the radar after playing his junior season last year at Texas State-San Marcos. He played in eight games as a true freshman at Arizona State before sitting out two seasons to focus on his studies, and he comes to the team as an older, mature player. In 19 college games as a defensive lineman, Washington had 36 tackles, 4.5 sacks and 9.5 tackles behind the line of scrimmage. He has dropped weight to move to outside linebacker and is another prospect who could surprise this summer.

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