49ers depth chart bubble watch: Fullbacks

Al Messerschmidt

The San Francisco 49ers start up training camp in three weeks. We continue our pre-camp depth chart breakdown with a look at the fullbacks.

Previously: QB | RB

The San Francisco 49ers are 22 days from their first training camp practice which means we'll start to get a better handle on who will rise and who will fall in the competition for roster spots. To prepare for training camp, we're going to go through a bubble watch of the entire roster. The plan will be to go position-by-position, and then compile it into our first bubble watch of training camp.

On Monday, we broke down the quarterback position, and yesterday we took a look at the running backs. Today, we move on to the fullback position. Bruce Miller and Will Tukuafu will report on July 23, while Trey Millard will report with the other rookies on July 16.

Locks: Bruce Miller
Strong Bubble: None
Weak Bubble: Will Tukuafu, Trey Millard
Longshot: None

The 49ers have their starting fullback, Bruce Miller, locked up through 2017. His contract is quite reasonable, with the highest cap charge amounting to $2,096,500 in 2017. Fullbacks are losing value across the league, but given what he adds to this team in run blocking, pass blocking, and receiving, that strikes me as a pretty good deal.

Miller is coming off a fractured scapula, suffered in Week 15 against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He missed the rest of the season, but he has since been practicing. All indications are that he will be 100 percent for the start of training camp. It's hard to judge what his absence meant, because it was also around the time Michael Crabtree was slowly improving in his return from Achilles surgery. It was an odd year for the 49ers. Miller became a key part of the short passing game early in the season, but his absence late was sort of replaced by Crabtree in the intermediate, longer passing game. Ideally, both will be healthy for 2014 and we'll see what it means to have both on the field at or near 100 percent.

Will Tukuafu was an able replacement for Miller late last season, but his roster odds are not good. The team released him early in the season, and only signed him back after Miller was lost for the rest of the year. Tukuafu seemingly no longer plays defensive line, so his value is as a fullback and on special teams. At this point, it seems likely that the team cuts him late in training camp.

Trey Millard is the interesting one here. The 49ers drafted him in the seventh round, and by many accounts got the best fullback in the draft. Millard suffered a torn ACL last October. If he has had a clean recovery, he could potentially be ready to go at the start of training camp. However, given Bruce Miller's presence and the depth across the roster, my guess is he opens training camp on the NFI list. If Millard opens the regular season on the NFI list, he would be out for at least the first six weeks of the seson. After that, Millard would be eligible to return for a 3-week window in which he can practice, but the team does not have to activate him to the 53-man roster. My guess is we see something like that late in his NFI window. The 49ers could very well surprise us and decide he's ready for the regular season already, but I think they take a wait and see approach.

What do you think happen with Millard in 2014?

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