The San Francisco 49ers wrapped up minicamp last week, and return for training camp in just over five weeks. The roster appears to be just about set, so with that in mind, it is time to re-visit the bubble watch. The offseason workout program does not lock in most roster spots, and that is even more the case this season with a new coaching staff and front office.
Over the next two weeks, we’re going to take a look at each position, and what the bubble watch looks like. As we’ve done for many years now, the bubble watch breaks down to lock, strong bubble, weak bubble, and longshot. For some positions, we'll have multiple players listed at strong bubble, even though not all are likely to make the roster. But the idea is that they both stand a good shot, even if it is just one of them. Additionally, this does not reflect whether or not a player will be traded. Trades can and probably will happen during training camp, but the positioning on this focuses on whether or not they’d be cut.
We’ll start out with the quarterback position.
Lock: Brian Hoyer, C.J. Beathard
Strong Bubble: Matt Barkley
Weak Bubble: None
Longshot: Nick Mullens
The 49ers do not have a clear long-term answer at quarterback, but for 2017, they don’t face a lot of decisions with the unit. Competition in training camp could lead to some surprises, but it would be a pretty big upset to see Hoyer not serving as the team’s starting quarterback when Week 1 arrives. The other quarterbacks will get opportunities in training camp and the preseason, but this is Hoyer’s job to lose, and it will take a lot to lose it.
C.J. Beathard is likely going to be the third string quarterback, and inactive most weeks when everybody is healthy, but he will make the team. The 49ers traded into the third round to select him, with Kyle Shanahan pointing to him as the only quarterback he really liked this year. He could push Matt Barkley for the back-up role, but even if he doesn’t, he’s not going anywhere.
I was tempted to include Barkley as a lock, but I’m not quite there yet. If Beathard out-plays Barkley, could he land the backup job? If that were to happen, I don’t see why they would keep Barkley on the roster as an inactive third quarterback every week. They did that with Christian Ponder last year, so I suppose that is also a possibility, but I wouldn’t see that happening. That being said, I would be surprised if Barkley got cut.
Nick Mullens is going to get preseason work to show what kind of developmental prospect he is, but he has little chance of making the roster as it currently stands. If he shows enough, the team will release him and try and sign him to the practice squad.