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Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports

Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports

Two 49ers beat writers predict the same seven receivers to earn roster spots

Jul 26, 2020 at 9:39 AM--

Two writers for The Athletic, Matt Barrows and David Lombardi, recently took a shot at predicting the San Francisco 49ers' 53-man roster. That's not an easy task, given the unusual circumstances surrounding the offseason. NFL players haven't even practiced together in an official capacity. Although, that will happen soon, thanks to a recent agreement between the league and the NFL Players Association (NFLPA).

Training camps will begin next week, once players undergo two separate COVID-19 tests. The first couple of weeks will focus on strength and conditioning and walk-throughs. Players will finally put on helmets on the 18th day and then pads on the 20th.

There will be zero preseason games. That means on-field evaluations will be based solely on training camp practices.

You can understand why all of these factors, plus any that may be unforeseen, can make things challenging to predict. Barrows and Lombardi attempted to do so anyway, going position-by-position and listing the names of players they feel will make the final cut.

There were some similarities and a few notable differences in the exercise. For example, Barrows had the 49ers carrying four running backs, including fullback Kyle Juszczyk, into the season while Lombardi listed five, including Juszczyk.

Another factor is the potential for COVID-19 to impact the roster, forcing the 49ers to consider carrying more players at one position than they normally would or choosing versatility over other attributes, as Barrows had the team doing by choosing Derrick Kindred over Marcell Harris. The former can play both safety positions while Lombardi went with the latter.

Then you have the wide receivers group, where the competition will be fierce. Behind Deebo Samuel, Kendrick Bourne, and first-round pick Brandon Aiyuk, there sits inexperience or uncertainty. Yes, Aiyuk is inexperienced too but figures to be a significant part of the offense in his first year.

Barrows called the receivers the toughest position group to predict, especially with Samuel possibly missing the start of the season.

Samuel, by the way, insists he will be ready.

The receivers being the toughest position group to predict made it even more interesting that both Barrows and Lombardi landed on the same seven players. They, of course, include Samuel, Aiyuk, and Bourne. After that, both writers list Trent Taylor, Jalen Hurd, Dante Pettis, and Jauan Jennings.

Many consider the last two to be on the bubble—players who have just as good a chance of not making the roster as making it. In fact, some would say that the rookie, Jennings, might have more of an opportunity than Pettis, who was inactive for three games last season, including the Super Bowl, and didn't catch a pass after Week 9.

"Pettis obviously has skills that Shanahan covets and he should have something to prove after being a healthy scratch in the Super Bowl," wrote Barrows.

Jennings is one of the 49ers' five draft picks but wasn't selected until the seventh round.

"I think Jennings makes the roster, simply because his size makes him so physically ready to perform in an NFL featuring downsizing defenses," wrote Lombardi. "Post-Super Bowl run, Shanahan and the 49ers have some cachet, so the league certainly noticed when they drafted Jennings in the seventh round."

Click here to read Barrows' and Lombardi's entire feature over at The Athletic.

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