With the San Francisco 49ers reporting for training camp on July 26, we’re taking a look at players that’ll be fighting to make the final 53-man roster in 2019. John Lynch and Kyle Shanahan, in their third year, have built a team that features the most competition since the pair took over in 2017. Today, we’re breaking down a defensive lineman that has surprised so far in his short stint with the 49ers.
The 49ers drafted Jullian Taylor with the 223rd pick in the seventh round of the 2017 NFL Draft. At 6-foot-5 and 280 pounds, the Temple defensive lineman presented the intriguing measurables that team’s look for late in the draft. In his senior season, Taylor racked up 41 tackles, 11 for loss. His talents were on display during the preseason when Taylor totaled four tackles, two sacks and two quarterback hits over four games.
Typically, the odds of a seventh-round pick making the roster are slim, especially among the 49ers’ crowded defensive line. But with a rebuilding roster and an impressive performance, Taylor was able to earn a spot on the final 53 for the 2018 season. The rookie didn’t see his first snaps of the regular season until Week 12. In six games, he managed seven total tackles and a quarterback hit.
Taylor’s presence on the roster as a rookie doesn’t guarantee him a spot this season. The 49ers kept nine defensive linemen in 2018. For the sake of argument, let’s assume they do the same this season, which is far from certain given the level of competition at other positions. DeForest Buckner, Arik Armstead, Solomon Thomas, Dee Ford, and Nick Bosa are all locks to make the roster. That leaves three to four spots open for the taking for the remaining defensive lineman in contention.
Taylor’s biggest competition for the role of the backup and rotational piece will be Ronald Blair, Sheldon Day, D.J. Jones and returning redshirt Kentavius Street. If nine is the number, Taylor will need to prove more valuable than one of the four players mentioned above, all-seeing significantly more playing time than Taylor in 2018, sans Street. Taylor’s chances of landing on the 53-man roster are as good as or better than they were as a rookie, but he’ll still need a strong training camp to hold on to his spot.