The San Francisco 49ers wrapped up their offseason workout program last week, and training camp is now seven weeks away. We’ll be breaking down the bubble watch over the next couple weeks, but in the meantime, I thought I’d put together another 53-man roster projection. Our last roster projection was in early May, a few days after the 2016 NFL Draft. Now is as good a time as any, with the hopes that nothing (other than maybe Anthony Davis un-retiring) impacts the roster competition between now and training camp.
It remains difficult to sort through the bottom of the 49ers roster. We have heard reports of strong performances from a variety of rookies, but for the late-round picks and UDFAs, I am struggling to find spots for them. Players that are teetering include Nick Bellore, Keith Reaser, and L.J. McCray. All three are expected to be core special teams contributors, with Reaser also competing for time as a slot cornerback. However, if any of the rookies can show something on special teams on top of any potential regular roster contribution, I could see the team moving on from some specialists.
Marcus Martin is another guy that I keep on, but I can see scenarios in which he does not make the roster. Alex Balducci has been getting a lot of work at center and guard. The Oregon defensive linemen has been impressing in his conversion to the offensive line, according to reports. He got the most guaranteed money of any 49ers UDFA. That would seem to guarantee him at least a spot on the practice squad, but maybe he surprises and grabs a 53-man roster spot.
Speaking of the offensive line, I did not include Erik Pears once again. I still think there is a good chance he makes the roster, but I just cannot find the spot. It appears the 49ers are trying to develop John Theus and Fahn Cooper as potential swing tackle option. This is one area where I’m willing to go out on a bit more of a limb.
The wide receiver position has a lot of intriguing options, but it’s hard to say, “Yes, Player X is going to surpass Quinton Patton.” There’s a lot of folks who think it will happen, but I just don't see it quite yet. I do think it is possible, but not to a level where I would remove from the roster at this point. It’s similar with Mike Davis. There are some people who are convinced he won’t make the roster. The 49ers showed no qualms trading A.J. Jenkins after one season, but he had literally done nothing as a wide receiver his rookie season. Davis did not do a whole lot more, but given his injury, I just don't see the team releasing him. Trent Baalke and Chip Kelly could come to an agreement that he is not a fit for the offense, but I’ll wait until we see some preseason action before making that determination.
One of the big questions will be trades. It’s virtually impossible to predict trades during training camp, but I could see something happening. We saw a basic one last year with TE Asante Cleveland, in 2013 with OLB Parys Haralson, and in 2012 with special teams player Colin Jones. I would not be at all surprised to see the 49ers make a trade in the preseason. Colin Kaepernick is always a possibility, but other than Kap, I don’t know who else it would be. A trade for a future pick could be what opens up a roster spot for another young player.
And of course, there are the injury questions. Ian Williams, Glenn Dorsey, and Will Redmond all focused on rehab during the 49ers offseason workout program. I would be surprised if the 49ers did not have at least one of them opening training camp on an injury list. If they end up on the regular season PUP or NFI list, that too opens one or more roster spots.
QB (3): Blaine Gabbert, Colin Kaepernick, Jeff Driskel
RB (4): Carlos Hyde, Mike Davis, Kelvin Taylor, DuJuan Harris
WR (5): Torrey Smith, Quinton Patton, Bruce Ellington, Eric Rogers, DeAndre Smelter
TE (4): Bruce Miller, Vance McDonald, Garrett Celek, Blake Bell
OT (4): Joe Staley, Trenton Brown, Fahn Cooper, John Theus
OG (3): Zane Beadles, Joshua Garnett, Andrew Tiller
C (2): Daniel Kilgore, Marcus Martin
DL (7): Quinton Dial, Arik Armstead, DeForest Buckner, Mike Purcell, Ronald Blair, Glenn Dorsey, Ian Williams
OLB (4): Aaron Lynch, Ahmad Brooks, Eli Harold, Tank Carradine
ILB (4): NaVorro Bowman, Gerald Hodges, Michael Wilhoite, Nick Bellore
CB (6): Tramaine Brock, Jimmie Ward, Dontae Johnson, Will Redmond, Rashard Robinson, Keith Reaser
FS (2): Eric Reid, L.J. McCray
SS (2): Antoine Bethea, Jaquiski Tartt
K (1): Phil Dawson
P (1): Bradley Pinion
LS (1): Kyle Nelson
Last four on: Jeff Driskel, Kelvin Taylor, Keith Reaser, Nick Bellore
First four off: Erik Pears, Tony Jerod-Eddie, Kenneth Acker, Shaun Draughn
Potentially PUP/NFI candidates: Ian Williams, Glenn Dorsey, Will Redmond