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49ers Roster Predictions: Who makes the final cut?

© Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

SANTA CLARA – The 49ers lost their final preseason game 27-24 on Thursday evening to the San Diego Chargers. Here’s where San Francisco’s roster stands heading into Saturday’s final 53-man cut.

QBs: 3 

IN: Jimmy Garoppolo, Nick Mullens, C.J. Beathard

OUT: Wilton Speight

  • Kyle Shanahan made a pretty explicit statement that unless the 49ers get a satisfactory return for one of their backup quarterbacks, they’ll both be on the roster. Nick Mullens is the better quarterback, but even he’s unlikely to receive a return the 49ers would deem fair. Looking through the recent history of trades involving backup quarterbacks on Pro Football Reference, there’s not often a higher than fifth-round pick exchanged for a backup quarterback (Jimmy Garoppolo, of course being an exception). It doesn’t seem likely Mullens would get more than what he’s worth to the 49ers in a trade.
  • It’s also extraordinarily difficult to imagine any team is frothing at the mouth to acquire C.J. Beathard. The best, realistic return imaginable is probably a one-round draft improvement in which the 49ers move up to the sixth round in exchange for a seventh-round pick. However, that would be somewhat of an about face by the team and probably would be considered “giving away” a quarterback in head coach Kyle Shanahan’s book (something he said the 49ers would not do). It’s not even clear a team would be willing to give that up for Beathard, who as general manager John Lynch said on KNBR Wednesday, does not have the best of stats, though the team still has confidence in him.

RB: 3

IN: Tevin Coleman, Matt Breida, Raheem Mostert

OUT: Jeff Wilson Jr., Austin Walter, Brandon Wilds

IR: Jerick McKinnon

  • I know, I know, Jeff Wilson has looked fantastic in the previous two preseason games. But the 49ers are probably taking three quarterbacks, and that limits decisions elsewhere… and there are a lot of NFL teams with a glut of running backs. Wilson has just 266 rushing yards in his career, doesn’t offer much on special teams (Raheem Mostert does) and while everyone around the 49ers is surely aware of how well he’s been playing, his value probably isn’t nearly as high outside of the organization. It seems there’s a good chance he’d clear waivers (though predicting waiver moves is an imprecise science) to be stashed on the 49ers’ practice squad.


IN: Kyle Juszczyk


IN: Marquise Goodwin, Dante Pettis, Deebo Samuel, Jalen Hurd, Trent Taylor, Jordan Matthews

OUT: Richie James Jr., Kendrick Bourne, Malik Henry, Chris Thompson, Nick Williams

  • There’s a real itch to bring seven wide receivers here, especially with Richie James’ return abilities and his consistently solid play in the preseason. But, again, the 49ers are probably taking three quarterbacks, and in order to protect the roster elsewhere (see the linebacker group), six wide receivers feels like the most likely course of action.
  • The wild card in this group is the health of Jalen Hurd. If his back stiffness continues to linger and he seems unlikely to be available in Week 1 with Trent Taylor almost certainly also out, there’s a chance seven wide receivers make the team. There is a chance that James could be moved to a team like the Denver Broncos, who are in need of a good returner, but that probably wouldn’t bring something back worth getting excited about.
  • The final spot, more than likely is between Matthews and Bourne. Matthews is the steady-eddy of the receiving group, a 27-year-old, 6’3 veteran who can play in the slot. He’s got a penchant for making crucial catches, especially in the red zone. Bourne obviously has that big play ability in him, but he makes a lot of mistakes in terms of drops and running incorrect routes. His upside is higher, but for a backend receiver, Matthews is the safer choice.


IN: George Kittle, Ross Dwelley, Kaden Smith

OUT: Levine Toilolo, Daniel Helm, Tyree Mayfield

PUP: Garrett Celek

  • This competition remains the same. Levine Toilolo seems very likely to be a veteran practice squad player as a decent third backup option if one of the other tight ends gets injured.


IN: Joe Staley, Laken Tomlinson, Weston Richburg, Mike Person, Mike McGlinchey, Sam Young, Ben Garland, Daniel Brunskill

OUT: Wesley Johnson, Joshua Garnett, Najee Toran, Justin Skule, Ross Reynolds, Andrew Lauderdale

IR: Shon Coleman

  • This is the first time Najee Toran and Justin Skule have been on the outside looking in, but their inexperience showed again on Thursday. Skule had a holding call, and there were a couple of occasions when both Skule and Toran were beaten badly. Sam Young looks a much more reliable tackle option and Daniel Brunskill, who excelled in the AAF and is only 25 years old, has demonstrated capability and flexibility wherever he’s been moved across the offensive line. Both Toran and Skule seem likely practice squad candidates if they are indeed cut and clear waivers.


IN: Dee Ford, Arik Armstead, DeForest Buckner, Nick Bosa, Solomon Thomas, Ronald Blair III, Sheldon Day, D.J. Jones, Damontre Moore, Kevin Givens

OUT: Jullian Taylor, Jamell Garcia-Williams, Jordan Thompson, Jay Bromley, Jeremiah Valoaga

IR: Kentavius Street

  • Street’s injury likely gives Damontre Moore the nod as an extra edge rusher, with Nick Bosa’s Week 1 questionability a clear factor (Dee Ford getting the rust off after an extended absence is also a consideration).
  • Even with that injury, it feels like there’s too much talent to go less than 10 players here. It would be surprising to see, with the extra spot created by Street’s injury, for the 49ers to cut both Kevin Givens and Jullian Taylor. They both seem the most viable candidates for the 10th spot, as depth on the interior with the strength and ability to create opportunities for other rushers. Givens’ consistency and Taylor’s issue with a back injury moves the needle for Givens.

LB: 6

IN: Fred Warner, Kwon Alexander, Dre Greenlaw, David Mayo, Elijah Lee, Azeez Al-Shaair

OUT: Mark Nzeocha, LaRoy Reynolds, Demetrius Flannigan-Fowles

  • Outside of the wide receiver competition, this is the most difficult to figure out. Fred Warner, Kwon Alexander and Dre Greenlaw are locks, while David Mayo continues to be involved in making tackles in all facets of the game and Elijah Lee, in just his third year, is looked highly upon by the team and maintains good upside. LaRoy Reynolds has had a great preseason, is a seven-year veteran and isn’t as consistently good a special teams player as Mark Nzeocha, while Azeez Al-Shaair has performed very well.
  • Don’t be surprised, however, if Nzeocha, a favorite of special teams coordinator Richard Hightower, makes the team over Al-Shaair who goes on practice squad (or vice-versa).


IN: Richard Sherman, Ahkello Witherspoon, Jason Verrett, D.J. Reed Jr., K’Waun Williams, Emmanuel Moseley

OUT: Dontae Johnson, Quinten Rollins, Chris Campbell

IR: Tim Harris Jr.

  • The questionability of Jason Verrett and K’Waun Williams make it unlikely that the team would go less than six here (unlikely regardless of that). D.J. Reed had a fantastic return night on Thursday, which, in addition to Dante Pettis, Deebo Samuel and Raheem Mostert, probably does enough for the 49ers to feel comfortable enough in the return game to move on from Richie James.


IN: Jimmie Ward, Tarvarius Moore, Jaquiski Tartt, Marcell Harris

OUT: Adrian Colbert, Antone Exum Jr., Jordan Holland

  • Nothing changes here. Exum looked poor on Thursday and Colbert’s hamstring problem resurfaced in what’s been a pretty miserable preseason. There’s no reason to believe the team would take anything less than four safeties.


Robbie Gould, Mitch Wishnowsky, Colin Holba

  • The only thing to note here is the 10-game suspension of long snapper Kyle Nelson (who has to sit 6 games this season), and whether he takes his starting job back from Holba at the conclusion of his suspension. The suspension oddly provides the 49ers with a free backup long snapper, but is only really useful if Holba is hurt in Week 8 (49ers have their bye in Week 3).

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