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49ers 2016 lineup projection includes interesting possibilities on defensive line

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The San Francisco 49ers have plenty of roster decisions to make between now and September. How about a lineup projection four months in advance?

The folks at have been going through the process of projecting starting lineups for each team, and Thursday they arrived at the San Francisco 49ers. You can run down the entire NFC West here, but this is what they have for the 49ers starting lineup:

49ers 2016 projected lineup

They discuss how Blaine Gabbert has the head start on Colin Kaepernick. They think logic dictates Kaepernick's talent would win out, but then they link to Grant Cohn's discussion of why the 49ers might prefer to see Kaepernick not win the job. I don't know how training camp will play out, but I do actually think Grant raises some good points about the situation. I don't know if the 49ers will actually pull an RG3 and deactivate Kap to avoid injury and the game-day bonuses, but nothing would surprise me at this point.

They insert Patton at wide receiver mostly just because he is the most experience option (excluding Jerome Simpson). Patton took a step forward last season, and there are plenty of opportunities this season with Anquan Boldin out of the picture. I have a feeling DeAndre Smelter or Eric Rogers ends up as the starter opposite Torrey Smith before the end of the season. They've got good size, but it's mostly a hunch for now.

I would say the most interesting part of this projection is the defensive line. They have Arik Armstead, Ian Williams, and DeForest Buckner starting at the three spots of the 3-4 line. Quinton Dial signed a three-year, $12 million extension this offseason. It's not exactly breaking the bank, so this does not lock him into a long-term starting role. However, I think we see him in the starting role at the beginning of the season. Buckner could be the starter before too long, but I think initially he begins his career in a passing down defensive tackle role. And this is also without knowing the status of Ian Williams when Week 1 arrives.