When asked Tuesday if he had a few favorites in the 49ers’ 10-man draft class, vice president of player personnel Adam Peters ticked off several players.
The 49ers think Hikutini, who grew up in Sacramento and spent one season at City College of San Francisco, slipped through the cracks of a deep tight end class and is a potentially ideal fit as a pass-catcher in head coach Kyle Shanahan’s system.
According to a post-draft story by MMQB.com, Peters, Shanahan, tight ends coach Jon Embree and general manager John Lynch combined to make at least eight phone calls to Hikutini, who was also speaking with the Patriots, Saints and Lions.
Peters focused on Hikutini’s agent, and the 49ers finally landed the top rookie free agent on their list with a $10,000 signing bonus and $100,000 guaranteed.
Hikutini took a meandering path to the NFL.
After playing just one season of football at Pleasant Grove High, he spent two seasons, including a redshirt year, at Sacramento State.
Last year, he grabbed the attention of NFL scouts (50 catches, 668 yards, eight TDs), but suffered a knee injury in a bowl-game loss to LSU that prevented him from running at the combine.
In Santa Clara, Hikutini will attempt to fill the pass-catching role the previous regime had envisioned for tight end Vance McDonald, a 2013 second-round pick with 64 career catches.
Despite his undrafted status, Hikutini will have the chance to unseat McDonald, who Shanahan and Lynch acknowledged was the subject of trade talks during the draft.