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2017 49ers 90-man roster ranking: players 21-30

We begin the countdown of our 49ers’ roster ranking today, looking at players ranked 21-30. This is mostly practice squad candidates and camp fodder, but a couple could surprise us.

The San Francisco 49ers return to training camp in nine days, and that means it is time for what will hopefully continue to be a regular annual feature. A year ago, we put together a consensus ranking of the 49ers 90-man roster. It included rankings from myself and ten of our writers. You can look at last year’s full rankings here.

We’re back again, this time with 13 people voting. Since this is entirely subjective, I did not provide a specific framework for voting. I could have said “the best,” or “the most important,” or a whole host of other possible ideas. The Instead, I just told people to rank the 90-man roster heading into 2017. It’s not an exact science, but none of this is!

Thanks to Greg Valerio, Billy Kerr, Oscar Aparicio, Tracy Sandler, James Brady, Jennifer Chan, Pat Holloway, Steve Busichio, Scott Geelan, Mark Saltveit, TryAndCatchVD, and Joe The Wizard.

I’ve included the high and low ranking for each player, and then also my own ranking. On to the next ten players!

30. Ahkello Witherspoon, CB (High: 13, Low: 59, Fooch: 37)

The 49ers rookie cornerback shows up in an interesting spot, ahead of Keith Reaser, but behind Dontae Johnson. I actually ranked all three of them together at 35-37, going Reaser, then Johnson, then Witherspoon. The rookie has the build to play press coverage, and is the guy we want to see as the long-term option. However, it will be interesting to see how much playing time he gets early in his rookie season.

29. Aaron Lynch, DE (High: 5, Low: 54, Fooch: 38)

Some people love Aaron Lynch, some people think he’s a bum. I am somewhere in the middle. The talent is there, but he struggles with his weight, and generally just seems like he does not have the work ethic needed to be a great pass rusher. He’s competing with Arik Armstead for the LEO role, and the addition of Elvis Dumervil will impact his work at edge rusher in the nickel. He is firmly on the bubble.

28. Dontae Johnson, CB (High: 23, Low: 56, Fooch: 36)

The last of the trio competing for the starting cornerback role opposite Rashard Robinson. He or Reaser likely will have the role coming out of camp, but will the loser of that competition get cut, or get a chance as the nickel or dime back? Johnson’s playing time has gone down each season since he was drafted in 2014.

27. Quinton Dial, DT (High: 10, Low: 44, Fooch: 29)

Dial has been a steady option for the 49ers, playing a mix of nickel and 3-4 defensive tackle. He has gotten his share of work in sub packages, but it feels like he is competing primarily for base defense work this year. The addition of Earl Mitchell is not high in his favor.

26. Earl Mitchell, DT (High: 8, Low: 55, Fooch: 18)

It’s fitting that Mitchell and Dial are right next to each other. It seems likely that Mitchell will play next to DeForest Buckner in the base defense, but I am not sure how much more we’ll see Mitchell when the team goes to their sub-packages. It’s still an important role that will see plenty of work.

25. Jaquiski Tartt, S (High: 6, Low: 43, Fooch: 43)

Right now he is the only experienced backup option at safety. He is primarily a big-hitting type that is better suited at strong than free safety. He is the guy I could see getting work as part of a big nickel or big dime defense, similar to Deone Bucannon.

24. Joe Williams, RB (High: 12, Low: 46, Fooch: 28)

Williams was a surprise pick, but people are excited about his long-term potential working with Kyle Shanahan and Bobby Turner. Carlos Hyde will enter the season as the starter, with Hightower as a complementary option. But, I am curious to see how much work Williams is getting out of the gate, and just generally what his rookie workload is while Hyde is healthy.

23. Malcolm Smith, LB (High: 19, Low: 44, Fooch: 19)

One of the bigger financial moves for the 49ers this offseason was a bit of a surprise. He has struggled at times in coverage, and yet we could see him getting coverage assignment as the weak side linebacker. If Reuben Foster is 100 percent at the start, or at least early in training camp, it will make for a fascinating competition.

22. Daniel Kilgore, C (High: 7, Low: 49, Fooch: 25)

The 49ers acquired Jeremy Zuttah via trade, bringing significant competition to the center position. Kilgore has been solid when healthy, but he has struggled to stay healthy since taking over the center role from Jonathan Goodwin. Kilgore has some guard experience as well, so if he loses the job to Zuttah, does he become the primary swing linemen for the interior jobs?

21. George Kittle, TE (High: 10, Low: 41, Fooch: 41)

He is not the highest ranked rookie on this list, but given where he was drafted, expectations might be higher for him than any of the other rookies. He got some first team work during the offseason workout program, but part of that was simply due to not having an extensive tight end depth chart. However, with the team trying to move Vance McDonald already, Kittle could jump into a significant role pretty quickly.

31. Tim Hightower, RB
32. Ronald Blair, DL
33. Robbie Gould, K
34. Trent Taylor, WR
35. Vance McDonald, TE
36. Zane Beadles, OG
37. K’Waun Williams, CB
38. Keith Reaser, CB
39. Bradley Pinion, P
40. Ray-Ray Armstrong, ILB

41. Eli Harold, OLB
42. Aldrick Robinson, WR
43. Logan Paulsen, TE
44. Matt Barkley, QB
45. Tank Carradine, DE
46. Brandon Fusco, OG
47. Will Redmond, CB
48. Garry Gilliam, OT
49. Chris Jones, DT
50. Garrett Celek, TE

51. Matt Breida, RB
52. Kyle Nelson, LS
53. Dekoda Watson, LB
54. C.J. Beathard, QB
55. Bruce Ellington, WR
56. Kapri Bibbs, RB
57. Pita Taumoepenu, DE
58. Brock Coyle, LB
59. D.J. Jones, DT
60. Lorenzo Jerome, S

61. Cole Hikutini, TE
62. John Theus, OT
63. Blake Bell, TE
64. Will Davis, CB
65. Vinnie Sunseri, S
66. Tim Barnes, C
67. Don Jones, S
68. Prince Charles Iworah, CB
69. DeAndre Smelter, WR
70. Aaron Burbridge, WR

71. Adrian Colbert, DB
72. Raheem Mostert, RB
73. DeAndre Carter, WR
74. Victor Bolden Jr., WR
75. Kendrick Bourne, WR
76. B.J. Johnson III, WR
77. Norman Price, OL
78. Zach Franklin, CB
79. Donavin Newsom, LB
80. Jimmie Gilbert, LB

81. Chanceller James, S
82. Noble Nwachukwu, DE
83. Erik Magnuson, OL
84. Nick Mullens, QB
85. Andrew Lauderdale, OL
86. Richard Levy, OL
87. Tyler McCloskey, FB
88. John Flynn, OL
89. Darrell Williams Jr., OL
90. Nick Rose, K