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49ers release first unofficial depth chart: Aiyuk is listed as the starting punt returner

No real surprises other than that

San Francisco 49ers Training Camp Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images

With their first preseason game a few days away, the 49ers released their first unofficial depth chart Tuesday evening:

Keep in mind, this is unofficial, and most teams have an intern put this together in August. So what you see above isn’t set in stone.


The best example of this is Richie James being listed in front of Trent Sherfield. There’s no plausible explanation for this, as Sherfield has received the majority of reps with the starters during the past week, while James has been inconsistent at best — he dropped a touchdown pass from Jimmy G during Tuesday’s practice.

Trey Sermon hasn’t taken any reps with the second or third team. If we were nitpicking, you could list the running backs as “Raheem Mostert OR Trey Sermon.” Based on how the reps have been split up, you can put Elijah Mitchell ahead of JaMycal Hasty, too.

Other than that, there are no real surprises. The depth chart will sort itself out at wide receiver over the next couple of games. We’re only talking about one or two spots, too. That makes for a lot of competition, and it’s likely it’ll come down to who gets the most opportunities.

Depth along the offensive line seems set in stone unless one of the third-teamers takes a significant step forward during the preseason.


DeMeco Ryans said Marcell Harris’s versatility to play two positions would be factored into making the roster. Harris hasn’t looked out of place at linebacker for a guy who is still learning the ropes. So it’ll come down to Harris and Jonas Griffith for the fifth linebacker spot.

There is an embarrassment of riches along the defensive line. There’s going to be a good player who is cut. I don’t envy the 49ers' front office for having to make that decision.

It may come as a surprise seeing Talanoa Hufanga over Tony Jefferson, but, Hufanga has outplayed Jefferson. If you were to remove the names on the back of their jerseys, 29 has outplayed 41 (now 25).

It’s taken three practices to realize Emmanuel Moseley’s value. First, he’s playing confident, which wasn’t the case last season.

Punt returner, Brandon Aiyuk

We’ll see if Aiyuk is the main punt returner or if he’s inserted into specific situations — like when a team is punting out of their own end zone. Many fans worry about injuries or if Aiyuk won’t have the energy on offense.

The probability of Aiyuk suffering from a big hit as a returner or slimmer than him taking a hit at receiver. And as far as energy goes, these guys are in supreme shape. So if he has to sit out a down after returning a punt 10+ yards, then so be it.

For me, it’s simple. Get the ball into your best player's hands as often as possible. Nobody on the team gives the 49ers a better chance to take a kick back to the house than Aiyuk. With that said, he should be the returner.

CeeDee Lamb did it last year for Dallas. We’ve seen Tyreek Hill do the same for the Chiefs. Get the ball in your playmakers' hands. I love it.