The San Francisco 49ers have one preseason game in their rear view mirror, and we have over two weeks worth of information at this point in the competition for starting jobs and roster spots. Some of our presumptions heading into training camp have been turned on their ear, while others are about what we expected.
I put together a 53-man roster projection when training camp opened, and it has not gotten any easier with two weeks of practice and a game under the 49ers belts. Listing Reuben Foster and Victor Bolden on the Suspended list opens up one, maybe two roster spots, but otherwise, there are a lot of tough competitions underway.
I have swapped Jullian Taylor and Richie James into the roster projection after listing them among the first four out in previous iterations. Taylor in particular has impressed the coaching staff and could be on track to earn a significant role as a rookie. And with Arik Armstead sidelined with a hamstring injury, a starting spot is potentially there for the taking.
I swapped James in for Aaron Burbridge. The fifth and sixth wide receiver spots are going to be tough competitions. Burbridge, James, Kendrick Bourne, Aldrick Robinson, Steven Dunbar, and Max McCaffrey are all competing for no more than two roster spots, and it’s a tough call. I have a feeling we see the 49ers try and trade Burbridge, most likely for a seventh round pick. It reminds me of when they unloaded special teamer Colin Jones at the end of 2012 training camp for a seventh round pick.
And trades are where things might shake out in all this. Aside from Burbridge, I think we see at least one other veteran traded. Arik Armstead and Jimmie Ward do not necessarily seem like long-term options for the 49ers, but for the time being they would not garner a whole lot of value on the trading block. Of course, if the 49ers are happy with where Jullian Taylor is headed, and think D.J. Reed and Tarvarius Moore (or anybody else) can be a capable option, they might be willing to deal Armstead and/or Ward for pennies on the dollar to unload their contracts. We don’t really know where John Lynch and Kyle Shanahan’s heads are at on this. We know they are perfectly willing to trade veterans, but we don’t know much more than that.
A tough call is along the interior line. I had Mike Person listed as the backup center, and Erik Magnuson at guard for now. However, with Joshua Garnett and Jonathan Cooper sidelined with injuries, Person has been getting first team guard work. Meanwhile, Magnuson was the team’s backup center on Thursday. This is one position where the next week will be something to watch with Cooper likely returning to practice, and hopes for Garnett as well.
Safety is a tough position as well. Marcell Harris might end up on the practice squad, but I’m going to hold off for now. If he does not get back to full team drills this week, then I will bump him off. In the meantime, to make room for Chanceller James, I dropped running back Joe Williams. He has time to improve, but with Raheem Mostert’s special teams skills, I’m skeptical Williams remains on the roster. That being said, it is possible the 49ers are giving Mostert more work in hopes of dealing him before the end of camp. Again, trades are the tough call in any projection.
One reason running back could be a tough call is Matt Breida’s shoulder injury. He’s expected to be ready for Week 1, but if there are any concerns about his recovery, Williams could stick around for at least a little while.
I’m a little concerned going heavy with ten defensive linemen, but I think a trade clears that group out — I just don’t know who that would be for the time being. I could see the team moving on from Earl Mitchell, but I have a hunch if they don’t trade him that they try and keep him.
Here’s what I’ve got so far, with plenty of room for change in this group. I’ve also included last four on and first four off. What potential trades do you think would clear some space?
QB (2): Jimmy Garoppolo, C.J. Beathard
RB (3): Jerick McKinnon, Matt Breida, Raheem Mostert
FB (1): Kyle Juszczyk
WR (6): Pierre Garçon, Marquise Goodwin, Trent Taylor, Dante Pettis, Kendrick Bourne, Richie James
TE (3): George Kittle, Garrett Celek, Cole Hikutini
OT (3): Joe Staley, Mike McGlinchey, Garry Gilliam
OG (3): Jonathan Cooper, Laken Tomlinson, Mike Person
C (2): Weston Richburg, Erik Magnuson
DL (10): DeForest Buckner, Solomon Thomas, Arik Armstead, Cassius Marsh, Earl Mitchell, D.J. Jones, Sheldon Day, Ronald Blair, Jeremiah Attaochu, Jullian Taylor
LB (7): Malcolm Smith, Eli Harold, Fred Warner, Dekoda Watson, Korey Toomer, Brock Coyle, Pita Taumoepenu
CB (5): Richard Sherman, Ahkello Witherspoon, Jimmie Ward, Tarvarius Moore, K’Waun Williams
S (5): Jaquiski Tartt, Adrian Colbert, Marcell Harris, Chanceller James, D.J. Reed
K (1): Robbie Gould
P (1): Bradley Pinion
LS (1): Kyle Nelson
Suspended: Reuben Foster, Victor Bolden Jr.
NFI: Kentavius Street
Last four on: Earl Mitchell, Richie James, Kendrick Bourne, Korey Toomer
First four off: Joshua Garnett, Aldrick Robinson, Aaron Burbridge, Joe Williams