We're facing something that 49ers fans haven't dealt with in some time. We have an abundance of apparent talent, or at least high-potential players, at a few positions and as such, the final roster cuts are harder than usual. Much has been said about which players will or will not make it, which players deserve the spot and the like. Not a whole lot has been made about who, of the practice squad-eligible players, would not survive on the practice squad.
Basically, the 49ers waive a player they want for their practice squad. At that point, any of the other teams in the league can sign said player to their active roster (and technically to their practice squad at the point of having waived them). If the player isn't immediately signed to an active roster, the Niners can then sign him to their practice squad, where he'll stay until they either elevate him to the 53-man roster, they waive him, he signs to another team's 53-man roster (cannot be signed from one practice squad to another), or until, obviously, his contract runs out. Or he goes all Glen Coffee on us.
After the jump I examine some of the players who are considered "fringe," and whether or not they would survive on the waivers. So, you know, jump.
OT Alex Boone
Boone has practice squad eligibility, and he's most definitely a fringe player. Before Eric Heitmann was injured, I was happy to include both Boone and Barry Sims on the 53-man roster. Now that it's happened though, there's doubts as to whether or not he'll make it, with Tony Wragge suddenly becoming useful. With Barry Sims stepping in and playing well, it's hard to say Boone bumps him from the roster. But will Boone survive on the practice squad?
At this point, I'll say that he won't. He's a very big and at one point, very highly regarded by scouts. He played well in college, but fell off due to a myriad of off-the-field issues. After a year in the league on the 49ers PS, he had the best offseason he possibly could, getting in shape and mentally preparing to earn a spot. I think a number of teams jump on this guy if he makes it to waivers. So my verdict is that the only way the team keeps Alex Boone is if they take, say, one less defensive lineman in order to keep ten offensive lineman.
FB Brit Miller
Miller also is eligible for the practice squad despite being elevated at the end of last season. Miller was, how you say, a Niners Nation favorite in the months leading up to the preseason. When my projection didn't include him, I was "pretty much an idiot," which I totally understand. It's easy to like the guy. Right now though, he's buried on the fullback depth chart. It doesn't look like his route to the 53 is playing fullback. It will be as a special teamer. But do the 49ers have the roster space for him? That's debateable - but the question is whether or not he'll survive on the PS.
I'll say yes. Brit is a guy who I actually believe is a good fullback, and as Lam (I think) noted in his latest projection, maybe the team isn't letting him show his stuff so other teams can't take notice and snatch him up. I believe this to be 100% true, and I think he'll clear waivers without hassle.
The team may or may not have room for a fifth safety. With the drafting of Taylor Mays, one has to wonder if Taylor has a spot on the roster. He probably doesn't, and the team will think long and hard on whether they want Taylor or Chris Maragos. Personally, I like Maragos more, but that's just how I feel. Will Taylor survive on the practice squad?
Once again, I'll say yes. I think Taylor clears waivers without incident, with a small chance of being picked up. He showed some good things, and he showed some bad things. A team might take a chance and scoop him up.
LB Diyral Briggs
Briggs is making it awfully tough for the 49ers right now to say "no." He spent the offseason working hard and thus far has been very good in preseason. He made the 53-man roster at some point last year, and it now looks like he'll make it again. But what if the 49ers keep less linebackers? What if Travis LaBoy is too good to pass up and the team doesn't want to keep both?
He won't last on the practice squad. Briggs would be picked up so fast, it's not even right. I think there are a number of teams who would claim him.
TE Nate Byham
It's still possible that Byham doesn't make the roster, and I'll keep this short and sweet, I don't think he'd last. He's looked good receiving, blocking, blocking from the fullback position, and hustles in practice. I don't think he'll be a big contributor this season, but he'll make the roster.