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49ers bubble watch: Defensive line features a ton of quality competition

The San Francisco 49ers have questions at almost every position while they work to figure out their 53-man roster. We’ll break down the bubble watch for each one. Today, we look at the defense line.

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 move on to the defensive line.

Lock: Solomon Thomas, DeForest Buckner, Arik Armstead, Earl Mitchell
Strong Bubble: Quinton Dial, Tank Carradine, Aaron Lynch, Ronald Blair, Chris Jones, Elvis Dumervil, D.J. Jones, Pita Taumoepenu, Noble Nwachukwu
Weak Bubble: None
Longshot: None

The San Francisco 49ers defensive line might be the deepest position on the roster. The team has invested a first round pick in the unit each of the past three drafts, and they added veteran talent in the form of Earl Mitchell and Elvis Dumervil.

I had a tough time figuring out where to put the two draft picks (Jones, Taumoepenu) and the UDFA (Nwachukwu). I considered just listing all of them in the strong bubble. I pondered Jones in strong bubble and Taumoepenu in weak bubble with Nwachukwu. I considered putting all of them in weak bubble.

They each bring a little something different to the table. Jones is a 6’1, 319 pound run stuffer who could eventually develop into a three-down lineman. Taumoepenu at 6’1 243 pounds is undersized but a speedy edge option. Nwachukwu at 6’1 268 pounds seems a little like a Ronald Blair type who will get chances both inside and outside.

In reality, I think the competition for the spots after the three rookies and Earl Mitchell is wide open. Not all of those nine strong bubble players will end up on the roster, but I really do think every one of them has a strong chance of making the roster. Even Nwachukwu. I was going to list him as weak bubble given his UDFA status, but with a new coaching staff and front office in place, veterans don’t have nearly the cache they would under a returning staff and front office. I think Nwachukwu probably ends up on the practice squad, but his versatility could be something that lands him a spot on the 53-man roster.

I know there will be people who disagree with how this is listed. Not all “strong bubble” players are created the same, but I just can’t justify moving anybody off that mark. And it says something about how deep this unit could end up being in 2017.

How does it shake out for you?