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49ers in Five: Kyle Shanahan offers insight into how he makes roster decisions

“If you decide to go with one position over the other that might change six other positions”

Everything you need to know in about five minutes

As the preseason dwindles, every team's big decision will be the final 53-man roster. During his press conference yesterday, Kyle Shanahan gave us a little insight into how he and the team go about making their final decision.

Basically, none of these decisions happens in a vacuum.

“You have a good idea [of the depth chart], but there’s six different variables based off just two guys going against each other that might be at different positions. So yeah it might be it’s all settled but two, but if you decide to go with one position over the other that might change six other positions.

You’ve got an idea of your best 53. You’ve got an idea of 16 practice squad guys you want to add, but at the end it’s so close and it’s different positions. Where are we going to heavy? Where are we going to go light?

We just had a game a few days ago and we’ve got to play another game in two days. What can happen in that game that can change stuff? You’ve got an idea but there’s still so much more communication you need to go through, so many scenarios because it changes every single day. That’s kind of what happens once the season starts, too.”

NFL roster building is an exercise in operating in the gray, no matter how black and white things look to us as fans.

It’s not just about whether Jordan Mason has been one of the 53 best players this preseason or not. It’s also about how many other good running backs there are on the team. Where does he fall on that list? If it’s behind three other guys, do you want to keep a fourth-string running back if it costs you one of the 11 or 12 quality pass rushers the 49ers have on the roster?

You also have to consider the other teams' strategy in the league. If you decide not to keep Player X, can you stash him on the practice squad without him getting scooped up by another team? Many variables factor into each decision that gets made. Like a player at a poker table, you must consider the cards in your hand and what you think the other people are holding.

For bad teams, roster decisions are about trying to acquire as many good players as possible. However, for good teams like the 49ers, roster decisions are about choosing which good players to leave behind. Those decisions are never as simple as they appear.

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