On Tuesday, August 29, the 49ers will trim their roster from 90 to 53. Unlike in years past, there are no in between dates that’ll force the team to make cuts from 80 or 75. That’ll allow players near the bottom of the roster the maximum number of reps to prove themselves during practice and in preseason games.
Let’s make a prediction after a week of training camp and see how much has changed since our post-NFL draft projections.
Quarterbacks (3) - Brock Purdy, Trey Lance, Sam Darnold
The biggest surprise entering training camp, at least for those of us on the outside, was Purdy being fully healthy. That meant he’d take all the first-team reps, which is what’s happened.
The only quarterback competition has been for the backup spot, which is closer than many may have expected. After Saturday’s practice, Trey Lance has the slight edge, but we still have a few weeks to go if Sam Darnold wants to be QB2.
Running backs (5) - Christian McCaffrey, Kyle Juszczyk, Elijah Mitchell, Jordan Mason, Ty Davis-Price
The 49ers have an argument for having the deepest roster in the NFL, and these first couple of positions are pretty good evidence as to why. The team has taken it easy on McCaffrey’s practice reps through the first nine days.
But Elijah Mitchell hasn’t been as fortunate to avoid the injury bug. Mitchell missing time has opened the door for second-year runners Mason and Davis-Price, both who have proven more than capable of giving McCaffrey a breather.
Davis-Price’s body type looks different, and he has more of a burst in Year 2. Mason is still the bruising back, but this time around, he’s comfortable catching passes out of the backfield.
Wide receivers (5) - Brandon Aiyuk, Deebo Samuel, Jauan Jennings, Danny Gray, Ray-Ray McCloud
It’ll take an exceptional preseason from Willie Snead, Ronnie Bell, Isaiah Winstead, or Tay Martin to make the roster. The first five are locked in, which means another wideout must go above and beyond to prove their worth over an extra lineman on either side of the ball. That’ll be difficult to do considering there are only so many targets to go around.
Aiyuk has been the best player during the first week or so of camp, but Deebo Samuel isn’t getting the notoriety that he should. Samuel looks flexible, fast, and far superior to the player in training camp of 2022.
Tight Ends (3) - George Kittle, Ross Dwelley, Cameron Latu
After the draft, I projected both rookie tight ends to make the roster. I’m still not sold that Latu makes it, but he gets the benefit of the doubt thanks to the round he was selected in.
Charlie Woerner is the better blocker, but he’s giving the team next to nothing in the passing game. So, Latu also gets the nod thanks to his athleticism and upside.
Brayden Willis appears to be a year away. He’s struggled mightily on the edge as a blocker in the running game. There’s potential to be a mismatch in the passing game, but not enough to earn a roster spot. Willis will make the practice squad and either he or Latu will be the successor to Juszczyk once No. 44 decides to hang up the cleats.
Offensive line (9): Trent Williams, Aaron Banks, Jake Brendel, Spencer Burford, Colton McKivitz, Matt Pryor, Jon Feliciano, Jaylon Moore, Keith Ismael
From the starters through Feliciano are locked in along the offensive line. Jaylon Moore has been out for most of camp due to a bone bruise, but the backups have left a lot to be desired.
If the Niners end up carrying eight on the active roster, that wouldn’t be a surprise considering how everyone else looks. But I’ll go is Ismael as Chris Foerster singled him out for his versatility over the weekend.
Defensive line (10) - Nick Bosa, Arik Armstead, Javon Hargrave, Drake Jackson, Clelin Ferrell, Javon Kinlaw, Kevin Givens, Kerry Hyder, Robert Beal Jr., Taco Charlton
Nine isn’t enough as all ten deserve to make the roster and players such as Alex Barrett and T.Y. McGill aren’t far behind.
Austin Bryant isn’t doing himself any favors as he’s been out with an injury. “You can’t make the club from the tub,” is a famous saying, and that goes for Kalia Davis, too.
Kinlaw looks like a changed man, Ferrell will be a contributor, while Hyder isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.
Beal Jr. is toeing the line as he’s missed a few practices in a row, but he’s also flashed enough to make the cut.
Newcomer Taco Charlton has not disappointed and is in a position to go against third-teamers all August, which will only help his cause come August 29.
Linebackers (5) - Fred Warner, Dre Greenlaw, Demetrius Flannigan-Fowles, Oren Burks, Marcelino McCrary-Ball
The 49ers drafted two linebackers and, as of today, I don’t think they make the final 53. That may come as a shock, but McCrary-Ball looks closer to a starter than a backup. He lives around the ball.
DFF and Burks are your core special team players, while Dee Winters and Jalen Graham will make the practice squad and could make an appearance on the active roster at some point during the season.
Winters has the better chance between him and Graham, and if he shines during the preseason, Burks or DFF could get the boot. My reasoning is you want veterans on special teams, and neither are going to play as the SAM linebacker in your base defense. So, where would they play if they made the roster?
Cornerbacks (6) - Charvarius Ward, Deommodore Lenoir, Samuel Womack, Isaiah Oliver, D’Shawn Jamison, Darrell Luter Jr.
Luter Jr. hasn’t practiced yet, but he comes from a similar scheme in college and I doubt the 49ers will run the risk of him getting poached on the practice squad. This may very well be a redshirt year for Luter Jr.
The same cannot be said for Jamison, who jumped Ambry Thomas on the second team in a matter of two practices. It’d be an upset if the UDFA from Texas didn’t make the team. Jamison can play inside and out, and has made more plays on the ball in a week than anybody not named Charvarius Ward.
Safety (4) - Tashaun Gipson, Talanoa Hufanga, George Odum, Ji’Ayir Brown
Nothing too crazy for the safety group. Odum is the special teams' demon, while Gipson, Hufanga, and Brown will all play at times. Hufanga looks poised for another big year, while Gipson is more than serviceable in man coverage. That allows the defense to be versatile and flexible.
Specialists (3): Jake Moody, Mitch Wishnowsky, Taybor Pepper
We’re not far off from Moody being the only player receiving reps in practice. We’re all far from being a kicker expert, but Moody has a boot and his leg is considerably stronger than Robbie Gould’s. The only question will be, can he make a clutch kick in the playoffs when the 49ers need him the most?