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2017 49ers 90-man roster ranking: players 1-10

We begin the countdown of our 49ers’ roster ranking today, looking at players ranked 1-10. 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 final ten players!

10. Arik Armstead, DL (High: 4, Low: 26, Fooch: 5)

The 49ers third-year defensive lineman is coming off a productive stretch of 2016, but what turned into a lost season thanks to a shoulder injury. Through two seasons, Armstead has been one of the most productive players when it comes to PFF’s pass rush productivity. Last year looked like it might be a breakout season for him, but the training camp shoulder injury eventually led to surgery. This year, he moves over to LEO, with questions about where he will move inside following the addition of Solomon Thomas.

9. Eric Reid, S (High: 4, Low: 17, Fooch: 7)

After four seasons at free safety, Reid is moving to strong safety in his fifth year. He is playing on the rookie option, which means he will be a free agent after this season. He is playing closer to the line in this new role, which would seem to be a better fit for his skillset.

8. Kyle Juszczyk, FB (High: 1, Low: 20, Fooch: 12)

The 49ers made a couple big splashes in free agency, but who knew a fullback would be one of them? Juszczyk is the highest paid fullback in the NFL a couple times over. He is expected to serve a versatile role as a fullback, running back, and pass catcher moved out of the backfield on occasion. I imagine the No. 1 vote is as much to do with how active he will be in most phases of the offense.

7. Carlos Hyde, RB (High: 2, Low: 23, Fooch: 4)

The 49ers added a lot of depth at running back, but for the time being, Hyde remains the starter. He is entering the final year of his rookie contract, and given the work Kyle Shanahan and Bobby Turner have done with day three draft picks at the running back position, it is easy to see them looking at Joe Williams and Matt Breida as the future. For 2017 though, Hyde will get a chance to at least earn a new contract somewhere.

6. Rashard Robinson, CB (High: 4, Low: 20, Fooch: 6)

The 49ers second-year cornerback made his presence known as a rookie, eventually earning starting snaps when Jimmie Ward was injured. Robinson heads into training camp as the presumed No. 1 cornerback. He’s got the length to take advantage of the team’s more physical press coverage look, and there is no doubting his confidence out on an island.

5. Pierre Garçon, WR (High: 3, Low: 14, Fooch: 8)

The wide receiver corps has received an overhaul, and Garçon will be the guy who leads the way. Anquan Boldin’s free agency departure left a hole in the depth chart. Boldin and Garçon are not pure No. 1 receivers, but for a rebuilding team, they represent a necessary leadership and general safety net at the position. Jeremy Kerley was a solid pass catcher last year, but Garçon represents a significant upgrade.

4. Jimmie Ward, FS (High: 2, Low: 17, Fooch: 2)

The 49ers are making big changes on defense, switching to something more along the lines of what Seattle does. Defensive coordinator Robert Saleh has made it clear he is going to have plenty of his own wrinkles, but we know that Jimmie Ward will be operating in a role somewhat similar to Earl Thomas. He played safety in college before moving to a slot corner role, but this seems better suited to his skillset.

3. NaVorro Bowman, LB (High: 1, Low: 11, Fooch: 10)

Bowman will forever remain a fan favorite, but the big question is how he returns this year after his second major leg injury. He was a full participant in the offseason workout program, but how he looks in actual game action is an entirely different question.

2. Joe Staley, OT (High: 1, Low: 10, Fooch: 3)

The only sure thing on the 49ers offensive line is that Joe Staley will start at left tackle. The other four positions are up for grabs. Staley is getting up there in age, but he remains the most consistent option the 49ers have. The line has not been the same since injuries started ravaging the group back in 2014. As they transition to a more regular zone-blocking scheme, it will be interesting to see if Staley still has a few more years left in the tank, or if he starts to approach the real back end of his career.

1. DeForest Buckner, DT (High: 1, Low: 13, Fooch: 1)

Several players on this final group of ten have plenty of hype, but there might be none more than that of DeForest Buckner. The 49ers 2016 first round pick played more snaps than any other NFL defensive tackle, even while missing a game. Leverage was a big issue last season, and while he showed some improvement through the season, he will need to take some additional steps forward this season. The hope is that he will get enough rotation to be a little bit fresher as the season moves along. The new-look defense will hopefully put him in a position to be more aggressive than during his rookie season.

11. Reuben Foster, LB
12. Brian Hoyer, QB
13. Solomon Thomas, DL
14. Ahmad Brooks, OLB
15. Jeremy Kerley, WR
16. Marquise Goodwin, WR
17. Jeremy Zuttah, C
18. Trent Brown, OT
19. Joshua Garnett, OG
20. Elvis Dumervil, DE

21. George Kittle, TE
22. Daniel Kilgore, C
23. Malcolm Smith, LB
24. Joe Williams, RB
25. Jaquiski Tartt, S
26. Earl Mitchell, DT
27. Quinton Dial, DT
28. Dontae Johnson, CB
29. Aaron Lynch, DE
30. Ahkello Witherspoon, CB

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