The San Francisco 49ers concluded their NFL Preseason Thursday night with a 17-0 loss to the Texans. The final step before they kick off Week 1 against the Chicago Bears is to trim their roster down to 53 players by August 30. With that in mind, here is my 49ers 53-man roster projection.
49ers 53-Man Roster Projection: Offense
QB (2): Trey Lance, Nate Sudfeld
In an ideal world, I believe it would be best for the 49ers to keep both backup quarterbacks Nate Sudfeld and Brock Purdy. However, with other more important positional needs, the 3rd-string Purdy is the odd man out. If he doesn’t get claimed off of waivers, he’ll be back on the practice squad.
RB (6): Elijah Mitchell, Trey Sermon, Tyrion Davis-Price, Jordan Mason, Jeff Wilson, Kyle Juszczyk
All seven 49ers running backs are worthy of making the 53 man roster. Kyle Juszczyk, Elijah Mitchell, and Tyrion Davis-Price are locks to make it, which leaves Trey Sermon, Jordan Mason, Jeff Wilson, and JaMycal Hasty the bubble.
I’ve given the edge to Sermon, Mason, and Wilson. Sermon, a 3rd round pick in 2021, hasn’t proven a whole lot yet. However, he has the upside and the 49ers gave him first team reps in the red zone at points during training camp. Mason, an undrafted free agent from Georgia Tech, has been the talk of camp, and has already shown tremendous potential. The 49ers can’t afford another team to claim him off of waivers if cut.
As for Wilson, six running backs on the roster is a lot. However, Wilson (and Jamycal Hasty for that matter) provide pass catching abilities none of the other running backs provide, which could be critical. Wilson also provides a much-needed veteran presence, which could come in handy.
WR (5): Deebo Samuel, Brandon Aiyuk, Jauan Jennings, Danny Gray, Ray-Ray McCloud
These five receivers are all locks to make the roster. The big question is do the 49ers need another one? Malik Turner is the frontrunner if there were to be a 6th spot, as he could provide some much-needed special teams help. However, I believe the 49ers have more important needs elsewhere and have a solid special teams corps already.
TE (3): George Kittle, Charlie Woerner, Ross Dwelley
Like wide reciever, the question is if the 49ers want an extra player for the position. For tight ends, Tyler Kroft is the only one who has a chance to be the 4th guy. However, the 49ers are covered in the pass game, blocking game, and on special teams with the three players listed above. Kroft will probably be a practice squad addition.
OL (9): Trent Williams, Aaron Banks, Jake Brendel, Spencer Burford, Mike McGlinchey, Colton McKivitz, Daniel Brunskill, Jaylon Moore, Jason Poe
Other than Trent Williams, the offensive line has many question marks. Aaron Banks and Mike McGlinchey have struggled at times throughout their careers, and Jake Brendel, Daniel Brunskill, and Spencer Burford don’t have much experience at their positions.
That’s why I believe the 49ers will keep a somewhat high nine offensive lineman. Jaylon Moore, Colton McKivitz, and Jason Poe have all shown throughout camp that they can be key depth pieces if something goes wrong during the regular season. That being said, all three of those players are inexperienced. In my opinion, it’s best to keep all three just to have a security blanket.
Also, I highly doubt he’ll make the roster, but keep an eye on Nick Zakelj. The 6th round pick out of Fordham has struggled immensely throughout camp, but has started to show signs of improvement. He’ll be on the practice squad, if he’s not claimed during roster cuts, and could make an impact down the line.
49ers 53-Man Roster Projection: Defense
DL (10): Arik Armstead, Nick Bosa, Javon Kinlaw, Charles Omenihu, Kemoko Turay, Samson Ebukam, Kevin Givens, Jordan Willis, Drake Jackson, Hassan Ridgeway
The only debate I see is if the 49ers want to keep an extra defensive tackle, Hassan Ridgeway, or opt for another EDGE in Kerry Hyder. Hyder proved once again in 2020 that he excels in defensive line coach Kris Kocurek’s system. As much as I’d like to put Hyder on this roster, the 49ers would be thin at DT if they kept him. Ridgeway gets the edge, joining Armstead, Kinlaw, and Givens in the DT room.
LB (5): Fred Warner, Azeez Al-Shaair, Dre Greenlaw, Demetrius Flannigan-Fowles, Oren Burks
The only guy on the bubble is undrafted free agent Marcelino McCrary-Ball, but the five players listed above are significantly better. However, expect McCrary-Ball to make the practice squad.
CB (6): Charvarius Ward, Emmanuel Moseley, Samuel Womack, Tariq Castro-Fields, Deommodore Lenoir, Ambry Thomas
The only battle at cornerback is for the final two spots. I’ve given those to Tariq Castro-Fields and Ambry Thomas over the veteran Dontae Johnson. The 49ers don’t have as much of a need for Johnson with Womack and Lenoir playing nickelback, and thus, the 49ers should opt to go with upside over experience.
S (4): Jimmie Ward, Talanoa Hufanga, George Odum, Tashaun Gipson
Away from the starters, George Odum, while mediocre on defense, will make the roster due to his special teams contributions. The only battle right now at safety is between Tarvarius Moore and Tashaun Gipson.
Moore has been with the 49ers since 2018 and is solid on defense and special teams, but lost a lot of his explosiveness after his Achilles injury in 2021. Gipson, on the other hand, provides much needed coverage ability, but hasn’t proven much with the 49ers yet.
I’m giving the upper edge to Gipson. 49ers’ GM John Lynch said that Jimmie Ward will likely be placed on injured reserve. Gipson fills Ward’s role a bit better, and should get the nod to start Week 1. The 49ers can’t afford to risk another team claiming him. If not claimed off of waivers, Moore should be back on the 49ers Week 1 to replace Ward.
49ers 53-Man Roster Projection: Special Teams and Bubble
ST (3): Robbie Gould, Mitch Wishnowsky, Taybor Pepper
The 49ers have one kicker, one punter, and one long snapper currently on their roster, and they don’t plan to make any changes. Not much needs to be said here.
Bubble: QB Brock Purdy, RB Jeff Wilson, RB Jamycal Hasty, WR Malik Turner, TE Tyler Kroft, OL Nick Zakelj, (another OL?), DE Kerry Hyder, LB Marcelino McCrary-Ball, CB Dontae Johnson, S Tarvarius Moore
I talked about all these players in their respective position group, but thought I’d put them out here at the end. All 10 — or 11 — of these players have a shot at cracking the 53 man roster. If they don’t, most will probably revert to the practice squad. If one player at their position goes down, they’re next up.