49ers Roster Predictions: Who makes the cut after injury-heavy start to preseason?

Photo by Daniel Shirey/Getty Images

SANTA CLARA – The 49ers’ first preseason game saw too many early injuries, including one, to offensive lineman Shon Coleman, that is likely season-ending. It also featured some fantastic displays from rookie wide receivers and the linebacking corps. Here’s who makes the cut on the 53-man roster, who’s just outside on the bubble, and who’s out.

Note: The predictions below are based on the roster numbers of the 49ers last season, which are likely to be similar, if not the same:

QBS: 2

IN: Jimmy Garoppolo, Nick Mullens

OUT: C.J. Beathard, Wilton Speight (practice squad)

  • Mullens is the better quarterback at this point. While Mullens went 11-for-17 with 1 TD and 1 INT and Beathard went 13-for-17 with 1 TD and 1 INT on Saturday night, Mullens faced a decent chunk of the Dallas Cowboys’ starting unit and had to meet Leighton Vander Esch up close and personal. His one interception came as he released the ball as he was being blinsided on a hit from behind. Beathard’s was a duck of a throw, which head coach Kyle Shanahan confirmed was not on a poor route by Jalen Hurd, just a poor pass. There were also a pair of near-identical incompletions from Beathard in the right flat, which, if the Cowboys’ covering linebacker had turned his head on either play, would have been easy interceptions. If Beathard is cut and declines to join the practice squad, which seems likely, Speight will probably take that practice squad spot.

FB: 1

IN: Kyle Juszczyk

RBS: 4

IN: Tevin Coleman, Matt Breida, Jerick McKinnon, Raheem Mostert

OUT: Austin Walter, Brandon Wilds, Jeff Wilson Jr.

  • With Jerick McKinnon’s inability to get healthy thus far, Raheem Mostert is no longer just a special teams guy who can run. He’s the third option in the backfield, and has looked genuinely like a tailback rather than a de facto running option. He did, however, pick up a concussion on Saturday, which is of fairly significant concern. Neither McKinnon or Mostert seem likely to get cut, but if one of them does, Austin Walter, the diminutive undrafted running back out of Rice, has looked very good in camp and in the first preseason game (13 carries, 38 yards and 5 receptions, 32 yards).

WRS: 6

IN: Marquise Goodwin, Dante Pettis, Deebo Samuel, Jalen Hurd, Trent Taylor, Richie James Jr.

OUT: Kendrick Bourne, Jordan Matthews, Shawn Poindexter, Malik Henry

  • The first four guys are almost certain to make the roster. Trent Taylor seems like he’s still likely to make it, despite the fractured toe he suffered. That leaves Kendrick Bourne, Jordan Matthews and Richie James fighting for the final spot. While it seemed like James, despite a solid camp, was probably behind both Bourne and the veteran Matthews on that list, the concussion to Raheem Mostert, and James’ effectiveness as a returner and his speed and route running might give him the edge… for the moment.
  • Both Bourne and Matthews had just one catch each (14 and 12 yards, respectively) on Saturday, although Bourne had three targets, and one egregious dropped pass. James will feel extraordinarily luckily that his first play of the game, a fumble turnover, was ruled incomplete, and he had the opportunity to redeem himself. He finished with a 25-yard kickoff return, a 10-yard punt return, and had 6 receptions for 31 yards. The picture of who in that group of three makes the roster will become much clearer over the next two preseason games when the first team gets reps with Jimmy Garoppolo.
  • It won’t affect their roster spots, but it’s worth reminding just how good both Hurd and Samuel were on Saturday. Hurd caught both touchdowns in the 17-9 win, plus another catch for 3 receptions for 31 yards, and Samuel had two catches for 61 yards (one for 45 yards) plus a massive pass interference penalty that he drew to get the 49ers into the red zone in two plays.

TE: 3

IN: George Kittle, Ross Dwelley, Kaden Smith

OUT: Levine Toilolo, Daniel Helm, Tyree Mayfield

PUP: Garrett Celek

  • The only real question on this list is whether Toilolo can beat out Smith. But being that Smith is a rookie, and Toilolo’s main asset is being very tall (he’s 6’8″), it feels like Smith will get the nod. While limited in his time, Smith has looked solid (1 reception for 17 yards on Saturday), and at the very least, lighter of foot than Toilolo. It’s not the most exciting competition, but with an outstanding offseason by Ross Dwelley and George Kittle looking like the same player he was last season, the third spot will be important if either take a knock.

OL: 9

IN: Joe Staley, Laken Tomlinson, Weston Richburg, Mike Person, Mike McGlinchey, Justin Skule, Ben Garland, Najee Toran, TBD (a tackle acquired in a potential trade)

OUT: Wesley Johnson, Joshua Garnett, Daniel Brunskill, Dillon Day, Christian DiLauro, Willie Beavers, Ross Reynolds

IR: Shon Coleman – underwent surgery on fractured fibula, dislocated ankle on Sunday

  • To read about just how bad the backup offensive line played last night (they allowed two big hits on Nick Mullens, one of which caused an interception, and let C.J. Beathard get sacked on his first snap, in addition to eight holding or false start penalties), click here. Shon Coleman is reported to be out for the season, something that will likely be verified later Sunday, when Kyle Shanahan talks to media. His injury leaves the line extraordinarily vulnerable, and it feels more likely that the 49ers acquire another backup in a trade, rather than roll the dice with their current poor backup brigade.
  • Wesley Johnson would go on the IN list if not for the fact that he’s a backup center to the backup center. The 49ers probably need another tackle, and both Willie Beavers and Daniel Brunskill looked miles off of being capable enough to fill that spot. The team has traded for lineman three times in the past two seasons (including Coleman), and it might be expected to continue that trend at this point.

DL: 9

IN: Dee Ford, Arik Armstead, DeForest Buckner, Nick Bosa, Solomon Thomas, Ronald Blair III, Sheldon Day, D.J. Jones, Damontre Moore 

OUT: Kentavius Street, Julian Taylor, Kevin Givens, Jamell Garcia-Williams, Jordan Thompson, Jay Bromley, Jeremiah Valoaga

  • The last spot on this list is a product of the questionable health of Nick Bosa and Dee Ford. Damontre Moore also looked fantastic on Saturday on the right end, and has for much of camp. He and Julian Taylor, who forced a fumble on Saturday, seem more deserving (at least performance-wise) of the potential ninth defensive line spot than Street.
  • However, Street, a fourth-round draft pick last season, is likely limited by the fact that he’s still coming back from his torn ACL. Although, with the injuries suffered already, the 49ers might need immediate production rather than promise, from a backup. Cutting Street, would, however, mean cutting a fourth-round pick who hasn’t played a snap in the NFL, which seems like a move the 49ers might have a hard time making.

LB: 6

IN: Fred Warner, Kwon Alexander, Dre Greenlaw, David Mayo, Elijah Lee, LaRoy Reynolds

OUT: Malcolm Smith, Mark Nzeocha, Azeez Al-Shaair, Demetrius Flannigan-Fowles

  • Obviously the big name getting cut here is Malcolm Smith, who has hardly contributed since arriving two seasons ago. He’s struggling with hamstring tightness and hasn’t outperformed many players on the field when he has been on the field thus far. Dre Greenlaw looks as close to a lock as you can find for the starting SAM linebacker spot (although it will often be the first guy off the bench to support Warner or give Kwon Alexander some rest, as he still recovers from a torn ACL, given the increased nickel alignment the 49ers will use), while LaRoy Reynolds’ coverage abilities, and the consistency of both David Mayo and Elijah Lee probably push Mark Nzeocha off.
  • It’s also worth noting that Azeez Al-Shaair had a tremendous game on Saturday, with four tackles (three solo), one for a loss, and one fumble recovery. He could be a dark horse candidate for that sixth roster spot if he continues his momentum.

CB: 6

IN: Richard Sherman, Ahkello Witherspoon, Jason Verrett, D.J. Reed Jr., K’Waun Williams, Greg Mabin

OUT: Emmanuel Moseley, Tim Harris Jr., Dontae Johnson,

  • The final spot here probably comes down to Mabin and Moseley, both of whom can slot into nickel corner. Mabin has looked more effective thus far, but Moseley, or E-Man as his teammates call him, has had moments of brilliance too. Don’t be surprised if it goes one way or the other. Tim Harris Jr., a sixth-round pick from Virginia has also had moments in which he’s shined, but he’s done little to show he’s worthy of taking a spot over the veterans. Dontae Johnson, while looking slightly better in the last few days, has had a pretty rough camp.

S: 4

IN: Jimmie Ward, Tarvarius Moore, Jaquiski Tartt, Marcell Harris

OUT: Adrian Colbert, Antone Exum Jr.

  • The 49ers expect a lot out of Jimmie Ward, despite his inability to stay healthy. Jaquiski Tartt, who’s also struggled with injuries, has looked solid at strong safety. Tarvarius Moore has been excellent so far, although still learning, at his more natural safety spot. It means the final safety spot is between Marcell Harris, Adrian Colbert and Antone Exum Jr. It might even be more between Harris and Exum than Colbert, who has yet again shown tremendous deficiencies in coverage, while Harris and Exum have, looked much better in coverage. Colbert was also ejected for a late hit on Saturday.
  • Colbert’s saving grace could be the fact that the increased use of nickel packages give him a chance to play inside the box, essentially as a linebacker, where he’s excelled. But the logic of keeping a safety who can’t cover because he’s good inside the box doesn’t exactly add up. His deficiencies were as easy to see last season as they are now, and both Harris and Exum Jr. look, at the very least, like less stressful options to watch on deep coverages.

K/P/LS: 3

Robbie Gould, Mitch Wishnowsky, Colin Holba

  • The only thing to note here is the 10-game suspension of long snapper Kyle Nelson (who has to sit 6 games this season), and whether he takes his starting job back from Holba at the conclusion of his suspension


$1000 Stimulus!

If you need some extra cash to get you through the quarantine, we’re handing out a $1000 Stimulus each week!


Watch BANDING TOGETHER! Save the Music, Save the World

BANDING TOGETHER is a virtual concert special designed to raise funds and awareness for music venues, recording studios, record stores, and working musicians threatened by the COVID-19 pandemic and immediate shutdown.

Stay connected


Subscribe to The Bone's weekly eblast to get the latest on contests, events and exclusives from your favorite 107.7 personalities and artists.