With training camp set to kick-off for the San Francisco 49ers on Tuesday, let’s predict who will make the final roster. We’ll do one today, and another prediction at the end of the preseason. This is more difficult than in years past as there haven’t been any offseason organized activities with the team. That means we could see more veterans or players with experience make the roster, and that’ll be reflected below.
Quarterback (3): Jimmy Garoppolo, Nick Mullens, C.J. Beathard
The 49ers are in a much better position from a quarterback depth standpoint than most teams. I have a hard time seeing Kyle Shanahan not keeping Beathard on the roster. It’ll be fascinating to see how the season unfolds and if the Niners receive any in-season offers for their backup quarterbacks.
Running back (4): Raheem Mostert, Tevin Coleman, Jerick McKinnon, Kyle Juszczyk
I can see the 49ers entering the season with four running backs as they did last year. This year, there will be more familiar faces than ever. McKinnon has posted plenty of his workouts on his Instagram, and he looks great and ready to roll. His trainer has confirmed as much. That will allow the Niners not to have to carry an extra running back and free up a roster spot at a more important position of need.
The 49ers will be fine with having four active running backs.
Wide receivers (7): Deebo Samuel, Brandon Aiyuk, Kendrick Bourne, Trent Taylor, Jalen Hurd, Dante Pettis, Jauan Jennings
Carrying one fewer running back opens the door for another wideout. I can’t see Shanahan letting Pettis walk for free. He’s making the roster. I also believe we’ll see Jennings, who should not have been a seventh-rounder, make the roster as there is too much risk to leave him on the practice squad, even if you can protect certain players. I’d much rather see San Francisco protect more vested veterans than a rookie.
It’s impossible to project the roles and who will play where right now. We know that the 49ers have plenty of depth at wide receiver, and Shanahan will use different combinations weekly. This position battle will sort itself out through the early weeks of the season.
Tight ends (3): George Kittle, Ross Dwelley, Charlie Woerner
I can see the offense getting a feel for what Dwelley and Woerner bring to the table, and if that’s not enough, the team reaching out to a veteran such as Delanie Walker or Jordan Reed. San Francisco was serious at upgrading at TE2. Woerner will get a chance, but he’ll have to earn it. Don’t be surprised if we see Hurd or Jennings play tight end type roles.
Offensive line (9): Trent Williams, Laken Tomlinson, Daniel Brunskill, Weston Richburg, Mike McGlinchey, Shon Coleman, Tom Compton, Colton McKivitz, Ben Garland
Williams’s health issues and the inexperience at right guard will force the 49ers to keep nine offensive linemen. You’d rather be safe than sorry along the offensive line. Whether Brunskill or Compton starts, both can play multiple positions, as can McKivitz and Garland. Coleman is a veteran with NFL experience, and I have him making the roster thanks to being the best option at tackle after Brunskill. If the team feels like Brunskill is LT2, then Coleman won’t make the roster.
Defensive line (10): Nick Bosa, Javon Kinlaw, D.J. Jones, Arik Armstead, Dee Ford, Solomon Thomas, Kerry Hyder, Ronald Blair, Darrion Daniels, Kevin Givens
I’ll work backward here. I don’t think Givens or Kentavius Street have done enough to warrant a roster spot, but Jullian Taylor tore his ACL late in December and likely won’t be ready, so I’m going with Givens until Taylor can return. Daniels is Sheldon Day’s replacement as a backup nose tackle. Blair has been posting workout videos on his Instagram, and he should be ready to go, which is awesome news for San Francisco.
I’d be more worried about losing Givens than losing Street, so I’d have Givens on the active roster. Taylor being healthy would be a big boost for the Niners defensive line. I think he brings more to the table than every non-starter save Blair.
Linebacker (5): Fred Warner, Kwon Alexander, Dre Greenlaw, Azeez Al-Shaair, Joe Walker
This may be the most straightforward position on the team. Fans may be disappointed if Greenlaw is relegated to more of a backup role this season, but Alexander was the better player last year. His contract and experience will give him the nod at WILL, which means we’re likely a year away from Dre starting if the 49ers want to save $13 million by getting out of Alexander’s contract.
The 49ers have a few younger linebackers, but Al-Shaair is a year removed from injury and should be even better this year, and Walker is a special-teams standout that can cover. These will likely be the five linebackers on the roster. A youth an athleticism movement kicks Mark Nzeocha off the roster.
Cornerback (5): Richard Sherman, Emmanuel Moseley, K’Waun Williams, Ahkello Witherspoon, Jamar Taylor
The only question here is who will be the fifth cornerback to make the roster. Jason Verrett? Tim Harris? One of the UDFA’s? I’m going with Taylor as he has NFL experience. Familiarity with the Seahawks won’t hurt Taylor’s chances, either. He’s more reliable than Verrett and more experienced than Harris. I think the 49ers could get away with stashing Harris on the practice squad.
Harris is strictly an outside cornerback, while Verrett has primarily been the same. Taylor has played both inside and out and is familiar with what the 49ers want to do on defense.
Safety (4): Jimmie Ward, Jaquiski Tartt, Marcell Harris, Tarvarius Moore
Most of the defensive positions are set in stone. There will be a battle for the final safety spot between Marcell Harris, Derrick Kindred, and a couple of UDFA’s. Kindred has been out of football for a year, and while he has experience and has played well at times, Harris is more of an impact player. Because the other three safeties are interchangeable, I’m going with the better player.
I hope Robert Saleh uses more “dime” looks this year that get Moore snaps on obvious passing downs. The 49ers were deadly last year in those packages.
Specialists (3): Robbie Gould, Mitch Wishnowsky, Kyle Nelson
Here is your kicker, punter, and long-snapper.