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49ers Roster Prediction: 53-man looks familiar, with a few veterans on bubble

Photo Credit: 49ers – Terrell Lloyd


On September 5, at 1 p.m. PT, the 49ers will have their 53-man roster set. More than in any other offseason, the coaching staff and front office has a pretty solid idea of what they want. With less time, fewer players to begin with (from 90 to 80 on the training camp roster), and most of the roster retained from last year, there isn’t much turnover in Santa Clara. Head coach Kyle Shanahan effectively said Wednesday that barring injuries, the roster is set. Here’s what that might look like, with changes listed from the previous roster prediction.

Quarterback:

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

Out: No one (Broc Rutter was cut before camp started)

Changes: C.J. Beathard makes the roster. I was fooling myself suggesting that Shanahan would actually be able to give up on him. He just can’t quit Beathard, even though it would open a roster spot.

Backfield:

In: Kyle Juszczyk, Raheem Mostert, Tevin Coleman, Jerick McKinnon, Jeff Wilson Jr.

Out: Josh Hokit, JaMycal Hasty

Changes: None. I still can’t see the 49ers taking less than four running backs. Shanahan said last season he had begun to view it more as a necessity than a luxury, and with four (five) capable backs, I can’t see that changing. The real competition here is Jeff Wilson versus JaMycal Hasty. Because Wilson has been in the system for three years, is arguably the best receiving running back on the team and just manages to score touchdowns, he’s too valuable and has too high a profile to cut. Hasty has been stellar, and looks like the most natural running back and outside zone fit, but because there’s been no preseason, other teams don’t have much to go off and he might make it back to practice squad. I think the team would be better off cutting one of Tevin Coleman or Jerick McKinnon (doesn’t look like he has the same speed, but it would be too harsh for the 49ers to give up on him now), to keep Wilson and Hasty. It wouldn’t be outrageous to see McKinnon cut, but I just don’t see it playing out that way.

Tight end:

In: George Kittle, Ross Dwelley, Jordan Reed, Ross Dwelley Charlie Woerner

Out: Ross Dwelley, Chase Harrell, MarQueis Gray

Changes: MarQueis Gray added, but no other changes. I’m not sure Ross Dwelley should make the roster, but Jordan Reed’s health is unreliable and while Charlie Woerner, is a physical, athletic blocker and has flashed in the pass game, I’m not sure he can be relied on as a receiver just yet. Dwelley doesn’t have any particularly exciting traits, but he managed to make key plays last year and is a willing, though not domineering blocker. If anyone gets cut here, I’d bet it’s him. With Tavon Austin going to injured reserve, I think the 49ers still cut Richie James Jr., hoping to get him to practice squad, and keep Jauan Jennings. After cuts are finalized, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Dwelley dropped for Mohamed Sanu.

Wide receiver:

In: Kendrick Bourne, Deebo Samuel, Brandon Aiyuk, Trent Taylor, Dante Pettis, Jauan Jennings

Out: Richie James Jr., River Cracraft, Shawn Poindexter, Kevin White

Changes: J.J. Nelson is gone, Tavon Austin would have taken his place because of his speed, veteran status and special teams ability. But he’s now on IR. I still firmly believe the 49ers will sign Mohamed Sanu after cuts are finalized. Whether that results in moving Jauan Jennings to practice squad or cutting Ross Dwelley, Sanu is too perfect of a fit for this team, with questionable receiving depth, to let remain on the market, when there’s nothing but opportunity cost to pay. Sanu was the other wide receiver the 49ers were in for along with Emmanuel Sanders last year before his price spiked to a second-round pick. Richie James Jr. returned to practice this week and if 49ers take seven, he’ll be in as a special-teamer, but the 49ers haven’t shown they think highly of him as a receiver, and he’s not a reliable returner. I think they bank on Taylor, Pettis and maybe Brandon Aiyuk as their returners and let James go, or go to practice squad.

Offensive line:

In: Trent Williams, Laken Tomlinson, Ben Garland, Daniel Brunskill, Mike McGlinchey, Justin Skule, Colton McKivitz, Tom Compton

Out: William Sweet, Ross Reynolds, Hroniss Grassu, Dakoda Shepley, Jared-Jones Smith

Changes: Ben Garland makes the roster, Weston Richburg goes to PUP. The question here is, do the 49ers take nine offensive linemen, or eight? They’re going to take eight because Hroniss Grassu is not a capable center and they don’t have any depth worth retaining on the active roster outside of the three backups they have. Weston Richburg won’t be ready until at least Week 6, and it’s unclear if Ben Garland will be ready for Week 1. That leaves Daniel Brunskill as your presumptive starting center, with Tom Compton the starting right guard and fourth-string center, and Colton McKivitz the swing guard backup. Justin Skule is the swing tackle backup.

Defensive line:

In: Nick Bosa, Javon Kinlaw, D.J. Jones, Arik Armstead, Dee Ford, Kerry Hyder, Solomon Thomas, Ronald Blair, Kevin Givens, Kentavius Street

Out: Darrion Daniels, Cameron Malveaux, Dion Jordan

Changes: Ronald Blair is in, Dion Jordan is out. I don’t like to rag on players, but he may be the least productive player I’ve witnessed in training camp. Jullian Taylor won’t be ready until at least Week 6 and Ronald Blair is expected to return in the early weeks of the season. Darrion Daniels just doesn’t have anyone to beat out for a roster spot, but he’ll be a valuable option on practice squad.

Linebackers:

In: Fred Warner, Kwon Alexander, Dre Greenlaw, Azeez Al-Shaair, Mark Nzeocha

Out: Joe Walker, Evan Foster, Demetrius Flannigan-Fowles.

Changes: None, but this is a position where there could be some weirdness. If Fred Warner remains on the reserve/COVID-19 list into the regular season/past cut day, he would not count against the 53-man roster. For the time being, I think that results in the team retaining Joe Walker, as a safe veteran and special teams option, but Demetrius Flanningan-Fowles has impressed in his first offseason after converting from safety to linebacker, and the 49ers tend to opt for youth at linebacker when they can. Dre Greenlaw is also in concussion protocol, and if that’s not resolved soon, that could necessitate a sixth linebacker regardless.

Corners:

In: Richard Sherman, Ahkello Witherspoon, K’Waun Williams,  Jason Verrett, Emmanuel Moseley

Out: Tim Harris Jr., Dontae Johnson, Jamar Taylor

Changes: Jason Verrett makes the roster, Tim Harris to practice squad. Verrett has looked very solid so far and repped exponentially more than Tim Harris, who has not shown all that much. Something tells me Verrett could play nickel in a pinch or in a dime situation.

Safeties:

In: Jimmie Ward, Jaquiski Tartt, Tarvarius Moore, Johnathan Cyprien

Out: Jared Mayden, Marcell Harris

Changes: Marcell Harris to practice squad, Johnathan Cyprien to roster. The only question here is whether the team goes with Marcell Harris, who has a propensity for big plays, or Johnathan Cyprien, a far more reliable coverage option. The more prudent option is to stick Cyprien, who said he wouldn’t go on the practice squad, to the active roster, but there’s not too much between them, and the 49ers may opt for youth. Something tells me Harris (Adrian Colbert 2.0) would get picked up by the Seahawks when he hits waivers.

Special teams:

These are the guys. This may well be Gould’s last year with the 49ers (or anyone), given that he’s due $4.5 million in 2021 and $4 million in 2022, with no guarantees. His contract is fully guaranteed this year, per OverTheCap.

 

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