Projected Roster structure:
The first thing I like to do before projecting a roster is just lay out the projected structure: how many players at each position
(A comparison to past year initial 53 man roster structures is at the end)
Here is where I ended up on roster structure:
DB: 10 — 6 CB, 4 S
DL: 10 — 5 DE, 5 DT
* See detail for explanation.
OFFENSE — DETAIL BY POSITION
QUARTERBACK (2): Garrappolo, Lance
For the first time in the KS era he has the luxury of 2 healthy capable starting QBs, opening up an extra roster spot. KS has carried just 2 before, but not because he had to good healthy QBs. Sudfeld or another cut down casualty vet QB should make the p squad. An 10th OL, a 4th RB, or a 6th WR (or even an extra DE) probably provides more roster value this year than a 3rd QB who will just fill up a game day inactive slot most of the season.
FULLBACK (1): Jusczcyk
One of the few no debate roster positions. The only debate is if Hokit sticks around on the p squad. Maybe not.
RUNNING BACK (4): Mostert, Sermon, Mitchell, Gallman
KS has shown he prefers to carry 4 RBs. With 4 capable RBs on the roster, injuries which will happen to RBs during the season, are not a major issue. (Remember the year McKinnon went down and Alfred Morris was signed off the street to lead the team. Don’t want to do that again). This is a running team, they will be one of the top teams in the NFL in run %, they need a full compliment of RBs. If everyone is healthy, the 4 listed are best in my view. Since Mitchell’s injury may be a few weeks, the team could bring in another RB, like Ito Smith (recently cut by the Cardinals) or someone else to compete with Hasty/Gallman for the last spot or they may leave it be as the next roster cut to 80 comes soon.
I think Hasty’s recent fumbles seem likely to push him to the p squad, much like prior 49er RBs with fumble issues — Jeff Wilson jr. and Mostert. These two didn’t get RB carries on the roster until their fumbles were under control. Wilson’s injury may simplified the decisions with the minor logjam at RB.
But now, with 6th round pick Elijah Mitchell hurt too, it may get complicated again. But I still expect Mitchell to be on the roster. He’s a perfect back for KS, and he was even before he posted his 4.3 40 time at his virtual pro day. He’s a very quick, one cut runner — the type that excels in an outside zone scheme, plus he a solid receiver too. He was on my radar all draft. After Sermon was selected, I didn’t expect to see Mitchell as a Niner. I was pleasantly surprised. He was looking great in camp before his injury, I think he’s on the roster even if he’s not quite healthy yet.
I don’t expect to see much of Mostert in the preseason games, except for part of game three when the starters do their preseason tune up. We’re going to see a lot of Sermon and Gallman for the rest of preseason. Hasty will probably play a bunch but only late in preseason games until he stops fumbling.
TIGHT END (3): Kittle, Dwelley, Pruitt
The 3rd TE spot is up for grabs. Pruitt seemed like a lock at the start. He has the most experience and fair bit of guaranteed money ($500k), but has recently been injured. That’s clouded the picture.
Matthews is a real possibility he could hang around and fill in if Pruitt can’t get healthy enough to win the job. Matthews is also showing up on ST. Woerner is somewhat unknown after a pretty terrible rookie year (albeit with no TC). He had flashes in the first preseason game, but he’s has a long way to go. The last spot is pretty even. I’m rooting for Matthews, but if healthy, right now I’d put Pruitt on the roster. This spot one of the most in flux and bears watching who gets what reps when, who plays ST, and how they do.
In the past two years the team has carried 4 TEs. I don’t think that happens this year because of the health and skill level of the TEs on the roster this year, and the holes elsewhere (IOL). If they carry 4, I think Matthews gets the nod along side Pruitt. He seems willing to shuttle on and off the p squad and plays ST. Woerner can develop on the p squad if there’s room. A late round pick gets a year to show he can contribute. Time’s up. If another team picks him off the p squad, so be it — Woerner playing behind Kittle, Dwelley, Pruitt and possibly Matthews is not likely to help this team much this year.
WIDE RECEIVER (5/6): Aiyuk, Deebo, Sanu, Sherfield, Jennings, (Hurd)
Sanu is healthy and quick after an ankle surgery clean up procedure last year, likely the number 3 WR in snaps and targets. Sherfield has looked terrific at WR and consistent, he might push Sanu.
Last years WR 3/4 ,Richie James Jr, is not showing enough to make this team this year. Others are now filling the roles he played in past years for the Niners and doing a better job. Cracraft, while scrappy, remains a marginal player. If Hurd is healthy enough to play, I think, he’s on the roster. When he’s played he’s been terrific. If he isn’t fully healthy he may get shuffled to IR (i.e. make the 53, then get moved over) or just cut loose. My best guess right now is Hurd makes the roster but gets shuffled to IR, essentially kicking the roster decision down the road. Let’s see how the final preseason games play out. If Hurd isn’t on the active roster I think the team carries an extra OL, not another WR.
Nsnimba Walker could sneak onto the roster if there’s an injury to any of the first five - he’s got electric movement skills and can be a returner too. He was at the bottom of the depth chart in the preseason game vs KC. He should move up the pecking order an get a chance to show his skills vs better players in preseason. Barring injury Jennings is likely the player Walker has to surpass to make the team — that’s a tall order. Jennings is looking solid. Finally, a big reliable slot WR. P Squad spot is likely Walker’s if he wants it, but more likely another team who needs a returner upgrade will snag him.
OFFENSIVE LINEMEN (10/9): Williams, Tomlinson, Mack, Brunskill, McG, Coleman, McKivitz, Moore, Banks, (Brendel)
- Tackles: T Williams, McG, J Moore
- Centers: Mack
- Guards: Tomlinson, Brunskill
- Tackles: Coleman
- Guards: McKivitz, A Banks
- G/C: Brendel, Compton
Banks is sadly not a stone cold roster lock due to recent injury and partly his spotty performance so far. If Banks isn’t back pronto, there’s an outside shot he has a redshirt injury year. So far, Banks attitude has been great, but his performance underwhelming. His shoulder injury setback could mean his roster spot is in jeopardy. I haven‘t projected that yet, but it’s a possibility.
Brendel probably shouldn’t be on the roster, but he is because the team remains quite thin at center. Brendel has been taking the 2nd team snaps at C and he’s looked decent. Coleman is a bit of a roster luxury but probably needed as tackle Jaylon Moore is a rookie. It’s not the best idea to make a late round rookie your swing T at least without another option. Coleman is solid and until very recently he’d been the first T In to sub for Williams with the 1s in practice.
Curious to see if Moore and/or Coleman get snaps at RG, as RG seems the weakest spot right now — both at starter and back up. Also curious to see if McKivitz or Moore or any others get Center reps even just in practice.
McKivitz gets the roster nod as ‘Likely’ as he’s a younger player and improving after a solid rookie year for a late round OL— he’s affordable with upside compared to the other roster options. Tom Compton and Senio Kelemente seem like serviceable vet O linemen, not costly, but also not so great. Kelemente has Tackle experience — usually that’s a big plus — not this year on this team, lots of tackles, plenty of guards, but very few centers. Compton can and has played C so he’s a leading candidate for a spot if they keep 11, which is possible.
Not sure who goes if they only keep 9 and Banks is healthy. McKivitz? Coleman? Moore? None of these players should be on the bubble if the team keeps 9 but they might be — I wish it were Brendel but he’s currently the top back up C. Until that changes Brendel is on the roster.
As I reflect on it, Compton could take Brendel’s spot even without taking C snaps with the 2s. The team knows what he brings. The more I think on it this seems quite possible but I’ll leave my projection for now 10 OL/5 WR with Brendel in and Compton out, Hurd on the initial roster but shuffled to IR so he can return (that means (Brendel or another player gets waived and re-signed out of the gate). Brendel is undersized but quite quick, I like his potential, but slightly dread the idea of him in a real game just yet as he’s not consistent enough to anchor the line I fear. Dakota Shepley was the 3rd C in the preseason game, until he starts taking snaps with 1s and 2s he’s not in the roster discussion, he’s in the p squad discussion.
DEFENSE — DETAIL BY POSITION
CORNERBACK (6): Verrette, Moseley, K Williams, A Thomas, D Lenoir, plus one more … Dontae Johnson come on down.
Dontae Johnson again? Maybe. I don’t think B W Webb is any better. Johnson is the CB talking snaps with the 1s when Moseley has been out. The final CB spot is wide open. Right now pencil in Dontae Johnson, because … it happens every year. Devontae Harris was just signed will be competing to knock Donte Johnson off the roster. I’m not betting against Johnson yet. Check back after a few practices and/or Chargers game.
SAFETY (4): Ward, Wilson, Hufanga, Mayden
Ward is quietly having a great camp. Tavon Wilson too; he came in as a vet and locked down the other starting spot while Tartt is still on the PUP list. Great vet pick up by the Niners. Kudos to the FO staff. Hufanga would make the roster on ST alone, but he also looked terrific at times in game action and practice as a S.
For the last S spot I have l Mayden. Not Ha Ha Clinton-Dix or Marcel Harris? Yep. Right now I think it’s Jared Mayden or Kai Nacua for the last S spot. These two are younger and faster and pretty solid at S and on ST. It’s a bit of a coin flip between Mayden and Nacua — I went with Mayden. Mayden is a great athlete but was sloppy in his technique in college — a great athlete on a great team can get away with sloppy, not in the NFL. I think he’s cleaned a lot of that up over the last year with the team and could be a solid player now. Harris needs to make this team as an LB and on ST. If Harris makes the roster he’s another option as an emergency back up SS — actually even on the p squad Harris could be an emergency SS.
Dix is a possibility but he’s needs to show up and make plays fast. He’s started to do that already with an interception his first day in practice, but he is starting from way behind. Dix could be a vet p squad addition perhaps. I see Dix v Mayden/Nacua for the last spot. The Chargers game awaits. I’ll be watching ST snaps in addition to performance on defense. One of Mayden/Nacua/Dix could get shuffled to the p squad if/when Tartt returns from the PUP. More evidence that this roster is stacked.
LINEBACKER (5): Warner, Greenlaw, Al-Shaair, Griffith, Harris
Warner and Greenlaw are stone cold locks and also have been durable. That durability along with a defense that plays a lot of nickel, let’s the team keep just 5 LB on the roster this year.
I think Harris makes the team as an ST player, a back up LB and an emergency SS. Grifffith is a roster pick surprise but shouldn’t be. Griffith is a crazy good athlete (similar or better than Fred Warner) who was home schooled and only played 5 years of organized football before joining the NFL last year on the Niners p squad. Kind of amazing. If Flanagan-Fowles wasn’t injured he might be close and could push Harris off the roster. As it is, I think DFF heads back to the p squad possibly along with my under the radar p squad candidate LB Elijah Sullivan (who seems like a poor mans Dre Greenlaw to me — smallish, fast, tackle machine who can cover). Griffith was my last year’s under the radar p squad guy.
The recent addition of Mychal Kendricks shuffles the pecking order a bit. Kendricks is a smart reliable vet LB who can also cover. He may push Harris or even Al-Shaair to become the p squad candidates. Check back after the Chargers game. Harris has been cut before, but as a safety. Still he could end up a p squad LB/SS utility man.
DEFENSIVE LINEMEN (10)
DEFENSIVE END (5): Bosa, Ford, Ebukam, Armstead, Key
Bosa, a healthy Ford, Armstead, and Ebukam are all stone cold locks. Right now Former Raider Arden Key, who is having a fine camp, takes the last spot. Sounds like Jordan Willis would push Key for a roster spot, but the team gets to delay a roster decision on Willis by 6 weeks for his PED suspension. This suspension kinda worked out well for the Niners who now can get fresh pass rush help mid season — with Willis if they need it. Unknown if the relatively recently signed vet DE Shallique Calhoun pushes Key for the last spot. Maybe. It’s also possible the team keeps more DEs and fewer DTs as Armstead and to some extent Street are DE/DT tweeners. This would make room for Calhoun or another vet pass rusher (Yarborough?). One of them could provide more overall value than a 5th DT. It’s hard for a team to have too many good pass rushers
DEFENSIVE TACKLE (5): Kinlaw, Jones, Hurst, Street, Kerr
Kinlaw and Jones seem like locks. Kerr, Street, and Hurst seem like the next group. Not enough room on this roster for some good players. For the Niners d line some good players will not make the team.? Givens is a tricky call. He’s a good penetrator, young and improving, but undersized. Normally, he’d be a perfect bottom of the roster developing player, basically like he was last year. Not this year. The team signed Zach Kerr and Maurice Hurst, both of whom are more experienced and more polished players.
Givens and fellow UDFA DT Darrion Daniels and seem like they won’t make the cut this year and one seems likely goes to the p squad, where another team may pick them off and sign them to an active roster before the year is up. Deep D Line this year. Kinlaw’s injury, if it persists, might open a spot early on for a DT that makes it through waivers (Kinlaw on the Roster, moved to IR, waived DT re-signed).
If the team only keeps 4 DTs seems like a tossup between Hurst and Kerr, I’d lean toward Kerr who is bigger and seems like a more well rounded player. But right now I have 5 DT on the roster: 2 big dudes — Kerr (6’2", 335 lbs) and Kinlaw (6’5", 315 lbs); 2 medium dudes — Jones (6’0", 305) and Hurst (6’2", 291) and one slightly undersized beast — Street (6’2", 287)
SPECIAlLISTS (3): the usual suspects.
Not a lot of holes. Deep roster at nearly every position. Roster battles are mostly at the very bottom of the depth chart. It’s setting up to be a very good year.
Spots to watch:
- Back up C and RG competition
- 3rd/4th TE spot — Pruitt, Matthews, Woerner
- Last CB spot — Dontae Johnson says ‘Molon Labe.’ Devontae Harris enters the arena.
- Last LB spot — Kendricks shuffles the deck as Flanagan-Fowler’s and Al-Shaair return to practice from injuries
- Last WR spot — is Hurd playing? If so, I think he’s in. Can Nsimba Walker push for a roster spot (over Jennings)?
Plus how long before Richie ‘’future Jet’ James Jr. gets traded? People scoff, but not so long ago the Niners traded for Jeremy Kerley who became the teams leading WR that year. Granted the Niners only gave up washout Brandon Thomas, and the Niners WR group was terrible. But trades for players like James do happen. Don’t be fooled by the depth of this roster Richie James can help a team this year (like the Jets!), just not this Niners team.
I’ll try and do a projection update after the Chargers game and the roster cut to 80.
Final 53 Roster Make Up History under KS
With Projected 2021 Roster
Total Offense 25*/26/26/25/24
Total Defense: 25*/24/24/25/26