The San Francisco 49ers have 37 roster moves to make between now and early September to cut down to the 53-man roster limit. We’ll see a host of cuts, and probably some trades between now and early September, with a few surprises probably in the mix.
This is the first time Kyle Shanahan and John Lynch have had to make roster decisions. Lynch has control of building the 90-man roster, while Shanahan has final say on the 53-man roster. They’ve repeatedly discussed the partnership they have, so I’d imagine Shanahan had plenty of 90-man input, and Lynch will have his share of 53-man input. But somebody has to make the final call, and come September, Shanahan will have that responsibility.
Shanahan has extensive experience as a coordinator, but has never been a head coach. We don’t have a lot to work with in terms of roster decisions, but we can speculate a bit based on the offensive side of the ball. The Atlanta Falcons roster cut decisions reflect more than just Shanahan’s opinion, but I have to think he had some kind of input into the decisions.
With that in mind, I thought we’d take a look back at the Falcons roster when they finished up the preseason and got ready for Week 1. Shanahan likely had nothing remotely close to final say, but we can speculate on some kind of influence.
Our friends at The Falcoholic put together this depth chart following the Falcons final cuts. One notable difference: a day later they claimed wide receiver Taylor Gabriel off waivers from the Cleveland Browns, releasing wide receiver Nick Williams. Here’s some thoughts on each position and what it may or may not mean for the 49ers. Plenty of roster changes happen throughout the season, but given the significance of the final roster cuts at the end of the preseason, it is a good point from which to work.
The Falcons kept two quarterbacks entering last season, including Matt Ryan and Matt Schaub. The 49ers are obviously in a very different situation at the position, and are fully expected to keep three quarterbacks, including Brian Hoyer, Matt Barkley, and C.J. Beathard.
Running back, Fullback
The Falcons ran with a two-headed monster in Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman, and kept Terron Ward and fullback Patrick DiMarco. The 49ers have Carlos Hyde and Tim Hightower currently atop the running back depth chart, and Kyle Juszczyk as their do-anything fullback. The big question is with Joe Williams and Matt Breida. Do they just keep one running back, or do they keep both rookies? They could offer even more of a rotation than what the Falcons had last year.
The Falcons kept six wide receivers, but really only used five of them. Eric Weems remained on the roster all season, but was primarily a special teams player. They later signed Nick Williams back to the roster as an injury replacement. They combined to play 29 offensive snaps.
The 49ers are all but certain to keep Pierre Garçon, Marquise Goodwin, Jeremy Kerley, and Trent Taylor. After that, they have a whole bunch of options, including Aldrick Robinson, DeAndre Smelter, Bruce Ellington, Kendrick Bourne, DeAndre Carter, Aaron Burbridge, and Victor Bolden. Do they keep two, or just one?
The Falcons carried nine players on their offensive line last season. The big thing for them is they remained mostly healthy throughout 2016. Jake Matthews played in 94.1 percent of offensive snaps, Alex Mack and Andy Levitre each played in 98 percent of offensive snaps, Ryan Schraeder played in 99.9 percent of offensive snaps, and Chris Chester played every offensive snap.
One of the 49ers biggest problems the past three years has been injuries to the offensive line. Ineffectiveness has been an issue at times, but injuries have been the big problem. I projected the 49ers carrying eight players, but that is partially because Zane Beadles can play so many positions. Whether he wins a guard spot or not, he can play anywhere on the line. That could guarantee him a spot since it saves room in terms of reserves.