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What the 49ers bubble watch tells us as training camp approaches

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The 49ers might make a change or two to their 90-man roster as training camp approaches, but here’s what the bubble watch looks like in the meantime.

The San Francisco 49ers return to training camp in three weeks, at which point the roster competitions return to the spotlight. Pads go on and the first two weeks of training camp will shape the first preseason depth chart. The first preseason game doesn’t provide all the answers, but by then, we’ll likely be able to narrow down a few of the roster competitions.

I’ve been looking through each position the past two weeks to sort out the bubble watch, and we’ve made a few adjustments since our post-draft bubble watch. The most notable move would be upgrading guard Laken Tomlinson from strong bubble to lock. He signed a three-year contract extension last month, effectively locking in one of the two starting guard positions. That increases our locks from 32 to 33.

The 49ers released offensive lineman Zane Beadles five days after that post-draft bubble watch. They later signed offensive lineman Mike Person to replace him. Person slots into his spot on the strong bubble, and I also added tight end Cole Hikutini and cornerback Tyvis Powell. The team is likely keeping three tight ends, and his experience coupled with offseason workout program praise would seem to suggest he has the edge. Powell was listed as a safety, but has worked his way into the mix at cornerback, even getting some first team work during the offseason program. He is one of the players I’ll be keeping an eye on once Richard Sherman returns to see just where he stands.

Those changes have us at 27 strong bubble players. That combined with the locks accounts for 60 roster spots. Considering there are only 53 spots to be had, it’s going to be tough going for some of these folks. We know that Kentavius Street will open the season on the NFI list, and Reuben Foster will spend the first two weeks on the suspended list, so that lowers it to 58. Even still, a deepening roster means fewer opportunities down the bubble watch.

One of the biggest questions among the weak bubble is at running back. Joe Williams would seem to have an edge given his year in the system and how much Kyle Shanahan pushed for him last year. However, both Jeff Wilson and Jeremy McNichols are intriguing talents. My guess is Williams makes the roster and one of those two ends up on the practice squad, but either could give Williams a run for his money in training camp.

Where do you disagree with this list?

Lock (33)

QB: Jimmy Garoppolo, C.J. Beathard
RB: Jerick McKinnon, Matt Breida
FB: Kyle Juszczyk
WR: Pierre Garçon, Marquise Goodwin, Trent Taylor, Dante Pettis
TE: George Kittle, Garrett Celek
OT: Joe Staley, Mike McGlinchey
OG: Laken Tomlinson
C: Weston Richburg

DL: DeForest Buckner, Solomon Thomas, Arik Armstead, Cassius Marsh, Kentavius Street (NFI)
LB: Reuben Foster, Malcolm Smith, Eli Harold, Fred Warner
CB: Richard Sherman, Ahkello Witherspoon, Jimmie Ward, Tarvarius Moore
S: Jaquiski Tartt, Adrian Colbert

K: Robbie Gould
P: Bradley Pinion
LS: Kyle Nelson

Strong Bubble (27)

RB: Raheem Mostert
WR: Kendrick Bourne, Aldrick Robinson
TE: Cole Hikutini
OT: Garry Gilliam, Darrell Williams
OG: Joshua Garnett, Jonathan Cooper
OL: Mike Person, Erik Magnuson

DL: Earl Mitchell, D.J. Jones, Sheldon Day, Ronald Blair, Jerry Attaochu
LB: Dekoda Watson, Korey Toomer, Brock Coyle, Pita Taumoepenu
CB: K’Waun Williams, Greg Mabin, D.J. Reed, Tyvis Powell
S: Don Jones, Marcell Harris, Chanceller James, D.J. Reed

Weak Bubble (15)

RB: Joe Williams, Jeremy McNichols, Jeffery Wilson
WR: Aaron Burbridge, Richie James, Victor Bolden Jr.
TE: Cole Wick, Ross Dwelley

DL: Jullian Taylor
LB: Elijah Lee, Mark Nzeocha
CB: Trovon Reed, Tarvarus McFadden, C.J. Goodwin
S: Antone Exum

Longshot (15)

QB: Nick Mullens, Jack Heneghan
WR: Maxwell McCaffrey, Steven Dunbar
OT: Andrew Lauderdale, Pace Murphy, Jamar McGloster
OG: Najee Toran
C: Coleman Shelton

DL: Niles Scott, Blaine Woodson
CB: Emmanuel Moseley
S: Terrell Williams, Corey Griffin

P: Jeff Locke