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NFL 2016: Jarryd Hayne faces uphill struggle to force his way onto San Francisco 49ers' active roster

Former Parramatta Eels NRL star Jarryd Hayne looks set to have his work cut out forcing his way onto the San Francisco 49ers' active roster for the 2016 NFL season.

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Hayne adventure just beginning

Former rugby league star Jarryd Hayne has told 60 Minutes he's ready for the next chapter in his NFL adventure.

The rugby league convert flew back to the US before the Easter break, having spent the off-season in Australia, and will be looking to impress new coach Chip Kelly when pre-season training begins in April.

Forcing his way into the game-day squad as a running back may be a huge task however, with the five other players competing for a probable three slots all being injury-free for the first time since Hayne joined up with the Santa Clara based side.

Reality check: Jarryd Hayne will have his work cut out catching Chip Kelly's eye.
Reality check: Jarryd Hayne will have his work cut out catching Chip Kelly's eye. Photo: Getty Images

The Sacramento Bee's Matt Barrows lists Carlos Hyde, Shaun Draughn, DuJuan Harris, Mike Davis and Kendall Gaskins before Hayne in his early depth chart for the year ahead.

"It will be interesting to see if Chip Kelly and his staff can better carve out an offensive role for the talented but still unrefined Hayne than their predecessors," Barrows writes.

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"There's no question Hyde, fully recovered from his foot injury, will be the 49ers' top runner. After him, the depth becomes fuzzy.

"A team source, who did not want to go on record because he didn't have the authority by the 49ers to comment, said recently that Draughn and Harris were the 49ers' two best runners after Hyde was injured last year.

"Hyde and Davis are the only draft picks in this group, and because of that Davis will be given every chance to succeed. He was ineffective last year until the season finale," Barrows added.

Having made the code switch for the 2015 NFL season, Hayne was initially listed as the 49ers' third choice punt returner, however he later profited from key injuries at RB to appear as a starter against the Detroit Lions as well as getting game time as the third-choice runner.

He was waived by the 49ers at the end of October before signing on the team's practice squad. His time in the wilderness was shortlived however, with the boy from Minto promoted back onto the active roster on Boxing Day 2015.

 

Time to head back to work @49ers @australia its been a pleasure. Have a fun long weekend. #back2back

A photo posted by Jarryd Hayne (@jarrydhayne38) on

If Hayne is preferred as a special teams player, he will face equally stern competition from Bruce Ellington, a lightning-quick punt and kick-returner who can also be employed as a utility wide receiver or RB.

"When you look at just the short time that I've seen just film of him you're like, 'wow - that kid can do some interesting things'," Kelly said of Ellington in February.

Barrows added: "After Smith, starting jobs are up for grabs. Kelly hinted that he's intrigued by Ellington. If he's able to stay healthy this off-season - a big if, given his history - Ellington could be in line for a quasi receiver/running back role."

With the 2016 NFL draft beginning on April 28 in Chicago, Hayne will have a nervous wait to see whether the task ahead will get any more difficult.

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