The San Francisco 49ers return to training camp this week, and we are continuing on with what is turning into 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 12 of our writers. You can look at last year’s full rankings here.
This year, we’ve got 18 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 2018. It’s not an exact science, but none of this is!
Thanks to Greg Valerio, Oscar Aparicio, Tracy Sandler, James Brady, Jennifer Chan, Pat Holloway, Steve Busichio, Scott Geelan, Mark Saltveit, TryAndCatchVD, Joe The Wizard, Scott Geelan, Josh Eccles, Josh Cootner, ak4niner, El Shorts, Alex Eisen, and Akash, Anavarathan.
I’ve included the high and low ranking for each player, and then also my own ranking. On to spots 21-30!
30. Earl Mitchell, DT (High: 21, Low: 45, Fooch: 32)
Mitchell was one of the first free agents John Lynch and Kyle Shanahan signed a year ago, landing him after the Miami Dolphins released him. He serves as the 49ers nose tackle, playing primarily on run downs. D.J. Jones could give him a run for his money this season in the 49ers base look.
29. Laken Tomlinson, OG (High: 17, Low: 47, Fooch: 21)
The 49ers looked to have a competition at both guard spots entering the offseason, then they signed Tomlinson to a three-year extension. The team acquired him last year in a late training camp trade, and he quickly took over a starting role. He would appear to be locked in at the left guard position this year.
28. Joshua Garnett, OG (High: 19, Low: 40, Fooch: 23)
The 49ers spent a first round pick on Garnett in 2016. He had an inconsistent rookie season, and then spent 2017 on injured reserve. He likely could have returned from his preseason injury, but the 49ers wanted him to use the time changing his body composition to play in a more athletic type of offensive line. He has dropped nearly 25 pounds, and will compete against Jonathan Cooper for the right guard spot.
27. Cassius Marsh, Edge (High: 8, Low: 43, Fooch: 24)
The 49ers claimed Marsh off waivers from the New England Patriots. Marsh wanted more of an opportunity, and the Patriots decided to let him find it elsewhere. After joining the 49ers, he had two sacks, and was solid in creating a pass rush presence. He was set to hit free agency this offseason, but the 49ers re-signed him to a two-year contract. It was not a huge deal, but the team thinks he can bring something more to the table. The fact that the only other addition to the pass rush was Jeremiah Attaochu suggests a big opportunity for Marsh.
26. Robbie Gould, K (High: 5, Low: 78, Fooch: 49)
It’s not a simple task ranking the kicker. Gould had a phenomenal first season with the 49ers, and given the team’s red zone struggles, his consistency led to big numbers. Ideally, we’ll see less of Gould this season, with hopes the team can punch it in with a little more regularity. Like punter Bradley Pinion and long snapper Kyle Nelson, Gould is entering the final year of his contract. It would not surprise me to see the trio extended around the same time.
25. Fred Warner, LB (High: 14, Low: 35, Fooch: 30)
The 49ers invested a third round pick in Warner this past April, and Reuben Foster’s suspension opens the door for an early opportunity. Malcolm Smith is likely playing the MIKE position during Foster’s absence, and Warner could emerge as the front-runner for the WILL position. He is competing with Brock Coyle, Korey Toomer, and others for the job. Where it gets interesting is when Foster returns in Week 3. Can Warner supplant Smith sooner rather than later? Or will Smith handle base defense work, with Warner coming in on nickel and dime situations given his coverage ability?
24. K’Waun Williams, CB (High: 14, Low: 43, Fooch: 26)
Williams was the first free agent to sign after John Lynch and Kyle Shanahan took over the reigns of the 49ers. He claimed the slot corner role, and did enough work to earn a three-year contract extension three weeks into the season. D.J. Reed is getting work at free safety, but has the build of a nickel back. Jimmie Ward can potentially get some work here as well, but Williams would seem to have this position locked down for the time being.
23. Garrett Celek, TE (High: 15, Low: 36, Fooch: 28)
It took Celek time to figure things out in the NFL, but he has emerged as a decent second tight end. He’s not star material, but he’s a capable option. He got more work at times than rookie George Kittle due to various injuries, but it would be surprising if a healthy Kittle did not firmly secure the top tight end role. I would be surprised if anybody else supplanted Celek, but Cole Hikutini will be someone to watch with one year under his belt.
22. Dante Pettis, WR (High: 15, Low: 35, Fooch: 27)
The 49ers traded up in the second round, packaging a third for a fifth to move up 15 spots. They added a receiver who can handle any of the roles on offense, but potentially just as important in his rookie year, is a record-setting punt returner. He holds the college record for touchdowns returned, and was an all-around great punt returner during his college career. The 49ers receiver corps is pleasantly deep. Pettis has gotten work at the three main receiver options, but his role for 2018 is still a bit uncertain.
21. Malcolm Smith, LB (High: 12, Low: 46, Fooch: 29)
Last year, the 49ers surprised plenty of us when they signed Smith to a five-year contract. The deal offered plenty of outs but still seemed a bit steep for the linebacker. He suffered a torn pec in training camp and we never got to see what kind of value he would bring. This year, he was expected to start next to Reuben Foster. With Foster set to miss the first two weeks while suspended, Smith and more than like Fred Warner will start at the MIKE and WILL positions. The same question for Warner above applies here. What happens when Foster returns from his suspension in Week 3?