49ers 53-man roster prediction: Too many linebackers, and a kicking conundrum

© Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

Trey Lance is gone and time rolls on. Now, the 49ers have to decide how to handle the other question marks on their roster. Final cuts to the 53-man roster are due on August 29 at 1 p.m. PDT.

Quarterback

In (3): Brock Purdy, Sam Darnold, Brandon Allen

Out (1): Trey Lance

Confidence in prediction: 100 percent

Well, as predicted (mostly correctly) in the previous roster piece, Trey Lance was traded for a mid-round pick:

Lance needs reps. He improves the longer he’s on the field. But the 49ers cannot provide him those reps, and the other two quarterbacks behind Brock Purdy are experienced. They looked miles more comfortable than Lance did in the preseason opener.

Sam Darnold is ahead of Lance in the pecking order at this stage, and it’s hard to imagine that changing. So, yes, you could keep him as your third-string quarterback. But that doesn’t benefit anyone, especially not Lance.

I think, ultimately, Lance will be dealt for a conditional pick, somewhere in rounds three through five (maybe dependent on how his next performance goes) after the final preseason game.

It was for a fourth-round pick that wasn’t conditional, and it came before the final preseason game, likely at the behest of the Cowboys.

But Lance was dealt. Now, the 49ers have three quarterbacks they trust. We shall see how that goes.

Backfield

In (5): Kyle Juszczyk, Christian McCaffrey, Elijah Mitchell, Ty Davis-Price, Jordan Mason

Out (3): Jeremy McNichols, Brian Hill, Jack Colletto

Confidence in prediction: 99 percent

This is the group. It’s hard to conceive any alternate scenario.

Tight end

In (4): George Kittle, Charlie Woerner, Ross Dwelley, Brayden Willis

IR (1): Cam Latu

Out: Troy Fumagalli

Confidence in prediction: 60 percent

This is the same prediction as before, just with Latu going on injured reserve before final cuts. Kyle Shanahan said his meniscus injury would likely need surgery and he’s had a terrible time this preseason. It makes sense for the 49ers to stash him on injured reserve this season and see if he can turn things around next season.

Woerner is the clear No. 2. Ross Dwelley is well-liked because of his knowledge of the offense. He has maybe the best hands on the team, but is limited athletically and a very poor blocker.

Brayden Willis, meanwhile, has looked like a bona fide receiving tight end with a solid blocking foundation. He had an impressive camp and needs to be on the team.

Troy Fumagalli probably deserves to make the roster over Dwelley given an impressive camp as a receiver and blocker. But the goodwill Dwelley has built within the organization, and the limited likelihood of Fumagalli being scooped up on waivers, makes me think Dwelley stays.

Wide receiver

In (6): Deebo Samuel, Brandon Aiyuk, Jauan Jennings, Danny Gray, Ray-Ray McCloud, Ronnie Bell

Out (5): Willie Snead IV, Chris Conley, Isaiah Winstead, Tay Martin, Anthony Miller

Confidence in prediction: 60 percent

With Danny Gray and Ray-Ray McCloud both hurt, the 49ers need a fourth receiver. Ronnie Bell is likely their kick and punt returner and has looked outstanding as a receiver. He deserves to make this team.

Chris Conley’s injury means his limited chance of making the roster is likely gone, and he could be back on the practice squad. Willie Snead IV, though, likely takes the spot Conley might occupy on the practice squad. He’ll get a chance at some point this season via a practice squad promotion, and might just jump on the roster after cuts and Gray potentially going on injured reserve.

Offensive line

In (7): Trent Williams, Aaron Banks, Jake Brendel, Spencer Burford, Colton McKivitz, Matt Pryor, Jon Feliciano

Out (9): Jaylon Moore, Jason Poe, Nick Zakelj, Ilm Manning, Corey Luciano, Keith Ismael, Joey Fisher, Leroy Watson IV, Alfredo Gutierrez

Confidence in prediction: 50 percent

The main question mark here is probably Jaylon Moore. No one else has done much to suggest they’d deserve a roster spot, and Matt Pryor has worked exclusively on the right side of the offensive line. They could keep Moore, given how weak the tackle market is, but he’s not been exceedingly impressive.

Defensive line

In (9): Arik Armstead, Javon Hargrave, Clelin Ferrell, Drake Jackson, Kevin Givens, T.Y. McGill, Kerry Hyder Jr., Javon Kinlaw, Austin Bryant

Reserve/did not report (1): Nick Bosa

Out (4): Robert Beal Jr., Kalia Davis, Alex Barrett, Marlon Davidson

IR/released with injury settlement (2): Darryl Johnson, Taco Charlton

Confidence in prediction: 40 percent

The change here is that Austin Bryant makes the team over Robert Beal Jr., who simply hasn’t been healthy. The 49ers might believe he can make it to the practice squad and join the roster later in the season.

Javon Kinlaw makes it as a pass-rush insurance policy for Javon Hargrave, and because he’s finally healthy. The rest of the interior defensive line isn’t compelling enough to not give him a chance. He cannot play the run, though, which is where T.Y. McGill holds plenty of value. Kalia Davis hasn’t been on the field enough to warrant holding a roster spot.

Nick Bosa remains on the reserve/did not report list. That seems totally normal and not at all something to worry about, despite a national reporter suggesting that Bosa could miss the first game of the season and that there has been limited communication between his representatives and the 49ers. All good, though.

Linebackers

In (6): Fred Warner, Dre Greenlaw, Oren Burks, Demetrius Flannigan-Fowles, Jalen Graham, Dee Winters

Out (2): Marcelino McCrary-Ball, Curtis Robinson

Confidence in prediction: 25 percent

The first question has been whether the 49ers keep five or six linebackers. With Bosa not yet counting against the roster, this is a spot worth keeping an extra man.

This has been the toughest position to predict. Oren Burks and Demetrius Flannigan-Fowles are viewed as valuable special teams commodities, and Burks will probably be trusted as the SAM linebacker in base downs.

While Marcelino McCrary-Ball impressed this preseason, so, too, did the other young linebackers. And the 49ers spent draft picks on two of them, which is why I have the team keeping both Jalen Graham and Dee Winters.

That said, this is the position group I am most confident will be wrong.

Corners

In (6): Charvarius Ward, Deommodore Lenoir, Isaiah Oliver, Ambry Thomas, Samuel Womack III, D’Shawn Jamison

Out (3): Tre Swilling, Qwuantrezz Knight, A.J. Parker

NFI (1): Darrell Luter Jr.

Confidence in prediction: 60 percent

The initial question here was whether Samuel Womack III and D’Shawn Jamison would make the team. Jamison has had a solid camp, has positional flexibility, and can be the 49ers’ backup returner to start the year.

Now, it feels like a question over Isaiah Oliver. He’s had a brutal time, and looks like he’s not quite getting it, or at least not triggering at the speed a nickel needs to.

Given their initial investment in Oliver, it’s hard to imagine them cutting him. But it wouldn’t be a shock if he doesn’t start at nickel.

Outside of Oliver, it’s worth mentioning that Qwuantrezz Knight had a stellar preseason as a tackler, and seems more like a safety than a corner. But there’s probably not a spot for him, or anyone else

Safeties

In (4): Talanoa Hufanga, Tashaun Gipson Sr., Ji’Ayir Brown, George Odum

Out (2): Myles Hartsfield, Tayler Hawkins

Confidence in prediction: 90 percent

While Tayler Hawkins excelled this preseason, it’s hard to find a spot for him on the roster. He should make it to the practice squad and get some opportunities if there’s an injury, or find himself promoted if George Odum goes on injured reserve.

Special teams

In (3): Taybor Pepper, Mitch Wishnowsky, Jake Moody

Out (1): Zane Gonzalez

Confidence in prediction: 95 percent

The 49ers may add another kicker, but it would seem wiser to add them to the practice squad. The Jake Moody situation is worrisome given his shaky preseason, but it’s hard to see the team cutting bait so quickly.

They don’t want to pay Robbie Gould the likely $5 million-plus figure he’s looking for, but if Moody struggles going into the playoffs… might the 49ers give Gould a call? I think so.

 

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Trey Lance is gone and time rolls on.