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49ers position battles: Which will entertain, which will surprise as we enter OTAs?

Time to take an early look at potential position battles. What are we missing?


The 49ers will start up their "Organized Team Activities" (OTAs) on Tuesday, which moves us that much closer to training camp. We will not see padded practices yet, but we get more team offense vs. defense drills, which means more implementation of the playbook in advance of training camp.

The rookies spent last weekend in rookie-only minicamp, and then got their introduction to "football school" over the last week. "Football school" got the rookies working with the veterans, but OTAs will take this to a whole new level. In doing so, the position battles we will see over the next three months will start to take shape.

We'll be going into position battles in plenty of detail over the next three months, but with OTAs getting started in a few days, I thought we'd put together a rundown of position battles to watch, and consider which might end up most intriguing in the coming months.

Here is a rundown of the positions I see significant battles for playing time, and I think there would be limited disagreement. This is not about the bubble watch, so much as just where we'll see particular competition:

  • Second and third quarterback: Colt McCoy, Scott Tolzien, B.J. Daniels
  • Backup running back: LaMichael James, Kendall Hunter, Anthony Dixon, Jewel Hampton
  • Third and fourth wide receiver: Mario Manningham, Kyle Williams, A.J. Jenkins, Quinton Patton, Ricardo Lockette, others
  • Second and third tight end: Vance McDonald, Garrett Celek, Cameron Morrah, Demarcus Dobbs?
  • Cornerback: Everybody
  • Backup outside linebacker: Parys Haralson, Corey Lemonier, Darius Fleming, Cam Johnson
  • Nose tackle: Glenn Dorsey, Ian Williams
  • Defensive line: Cornellius Carradine, Quinton Dial, Glenn Dorsey, Will Tukuafu, Demarcus Dobbs, Tony Jerod-Eddie

I suppose "Everybody" is a bit of a cop-out at cornerback, but is any one particular position locked down? There's a reasonable argument that Tarell Brown is going to be starting, but beyond that, I think anything is possible. Matt Maiocco believes Glenn Dorsey is likely set at nose tackle, with Williams as his backup.

I did not include the safety position because I think there is some debate to be had about how likely it is that Reid slots right in at free safety. The 49ers obviously liked him, and they don't just give jobs to anybody. He will have to prove he belongs, but would it be an upset if he wasn't the starting free safety come September? I think this is one position where we might have a decent amount of disagreement, but I'm honestly not sure.

I also did not include any offensive line position battles on here, because I am curious where people fall with the interior options. Jonathan Goodwin is currently the starting center, but given his cap figure, and the work the 49ers have done at center with Daniel Kilgore and Joe Looney, could we see one of them snatch the job from Goodwin by the end of August? Daniel Kilgore would appear to be the favorite for that, but are we underestimating Jonathan Goodwin's contributions?

Any other position battles we should be considering?