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Projecting the entire 49ers depth chart for Week 1

Rohan Chakravarthi
Sep 4, 2021 at 3:00 PM--

With the 49ers 69-man roster (53-man roster + 16 players on the practice squad) set for now, let's take a look at what the potential depth chart could be.

Over the course of the past few days, the team has sent players to IR, allowing replacements to take spots on the 53-man roster.

In addition, I'll be talking about the gameday roster A LOT in this article, which overall includes 55 players as the NFL allows for two additional players to be on the gameday roster who aren't on the 53-man roster. Of those 55 total players, 48 can be deemed active and available to play in a game.

But, enough terminology. Let's predict the 49ers depth chart for Week 1 of the 2021 NFL season.


  1. Jimmy Garoppolo
  2. Nate Sudfeld
  3. Trey Lance

Now, before the million screaming fans come at me, Trey Lance is currently injured.

The quarterback fractured his finger in last weekend's preseason game against the Raiders when he took a helmet hit to the finger when throwing the football. While the team gave an optimistic outlook and said that Lance could be back Monday, he still had the finger heavily protected and hasn't practiced throwing yet, so that deadline may seem too early.

To protect the rookie, the 49ers may make him an inactive for Week 1 and promote quarterback Nate Sudfeld from the practice squad as one of the extra players not on the 53-man to serve as Garoppolo's backup should Lance not be healthy.

So, for Week 1 specifically, the projected depth chart I have is Garoppolo, Sudfeld, and then Lance, but after Week 1, the team may carry only two quarterbacks if there are depth concerns elsewhere as long as Lance is fully healed and practicing.

Running Backs

  1. Raheem Mostert
  2. Trey Sermon
  3. JaMycal Hasty
  4. Elijah Mitchell

For Week 1, I think that the 49ers will only carry three of the four running backs on the roster, with Elijah Mitchell being one of the inactives for the team.

While Mitchell carries the threat of returning kicks, a corresponding move I'll get to soon will cover that responsibility, and his performance in the final preseason game indicated that he hadn't fully learned the 49ers offense and was still acclimating to the NFL.

So, Hasty, who made the team over Wayne Gallman, gets the nod here as the third back on the depth chart, and has familiarity with the system as well.

Trey Sermon is the second back on the depth chart, but should have an extensive role in Week 1 just because of the different play style he brings at the position. He was drafted in the third round for a reason: he's a bruiser back who can establish the run game in between gaps, while Mostert serves as the outside run back.

To start the season at least, the order of Mostert, Sermon, Hasty, and Mitchell, is my projection as the running back depth chart for week one.


  1. Kyle Juszczyk

Juszczyk gets his own section today, but he's the 49ers' versatile weapon. He's a lock to start anytime he's healthy.

Wide Receivers

  1. Deebo Samuel
  2. Brandon Aiyuk
  3. Mohamed Sanu
  4. Trent Sherfield
  5. Jauan Jennings
  6. Travis Benjamin
  7. Jalen Hurd

Here, Samuel and Aiyuk are interchangeable because they play on their respective sides of the field, but the debate starts after that.

While the team has gushed about all of the big slots (Sanu, Jennings, and Hurd), Sanu gets the starting role in my depth chart with his ability as a receiver and willingness to block in the run-scheme.

Sherfield has had an impressive camp and will be the backup outside receiver to Samuel and Aiyuk, and certainly could see some good action in Week 1. Jennings comes in over Hurd, because of his consistency and reliability so far.

I think Hurd will be an inactive on game day, paving the way for Travis Benjamin to take that second spot of the two players not on the 53-man, who will be another useful deep threat for depth and can also return kickoffs for the team with Elijah Mitchell being inactive.

Obviously, the team could keep Mitchell on the active list, make Hasty inactive, and save a spot without Benjamin, but this plan would keep the most ready players on the field in Week 1.

Until Hurd catches back up to game speed, he will likely be an inactive, although, once the season ramps up, he should see some significant action.

Tight Ends

  1. George Kittle
  2. Ross Dwelley
  3. Charlie Woerner

As I said in my initial breakdown of the 53-man roster, I was surprised that MyCole Pruitt didn't make the roster after being handed a $500,000 guarantee, which the 49ers will now have to swallow.

But, with these three, Kittle obviously leads the way. Backup Ross Dwelley has paved his role over the last two seasons, starting in nine games last year, and third-stringer Charlie Woerner has improved in the passing game, while maintaining his blocking ability, which is extremely important in the 49ers system.

From a depth chart standpoint, no surprises here. I don't expect Jordan Matthews to make the game day roster, especially in Week 1, but he is someone to watch for on the practice squad as he continues his transition from receiver to tight end.

Offensive Line

The team is currently carrying nine offensive linemen and I predict it stays that way on game days.

Quality depth has been the glaring concern here as the four backups for the 49ers consist of a surprise selection in Tom Compton, two rookies in Aaron Banks and Jaylon Moore, and Jake Brendel.

The key problem is that with swing tackle Justin Skule likely out for the year, the depth at the tackle position is very minimal, so it's imperative that both starters remain healthy for the majority of the season.

Banks will likely be an inactive for Week 1 as his transition to the NFL has not gone smoothly. He has looked poor in his limited preseason action and sustained a shoulder injury, but it's too early for judgement.

Still, Banks just recently returned to practice, so he likely won't be fully adjusted back to speed by Week 1, meaning that the team will carry eight active linemen.

Defensive Line

Before I get started, note that this Week 1 projection for the defensive line is based on passing situations.

The main takeaway is having D.J Jones in as the starter over Kinlaw, but that's because Armstead slides over to defensive tackle in passing situations. I've long been a fan of Armstead staying on the interior, which I believe the 49ers want to see more of too.

Ebukam will likely get the starting role over Ford for Week 1 because Ford may be on limited snaps, but if he responds well at the beginning of the season, he should elevate into that starting role.

Kinlaw will likely be in on rushing downs as he and Jones are good run-stoppers, but he needs to show growth as a pass rusher to get more consistent time on passing downs.

As for the backups, Arden Key showed out in preseason and should play a good role in the defensive line rotations as the second edge on the depth chart opposite Ford.

I feel that both Street and Givens may be on the inactive list for Week 1, as the team may elect to go with Kerr as its primary backup defensive tackle alongside Kinlaw, Jones, and Armstead.

With many players in the top eight having positional flexibility, the 49ers can roll out with that group, at least for Week 1.


  1. Fred Warner
  2. Dre Greenlaw
  3. Azeez Al-Shaair
  4. Demetrius Flannigan-Fowles
  5. Marcell Harris

The linebacker depth chart is pretty straightforward as Warner takes over the middle linebacker role with Greenlaw on the weak side and Al-Shair on the strong side for the starting group.

Flannigan-Fowles, a special teams specialist over the past two years, is the primary backup in run situations and Harris, the converted safety, should be the primary backup in pass situations.

Harris showcased that safety speed of his in training camp and looked much better in coverage at linebacker, so he's certainly got the chance to compete for a higher spot, should he continue to produce.

I believe all five of these linebackers make the game day roster and I don't think any of the practice squad players come along as part of the 55 available players for Week 1.


  1. Jason Verrett
  2. Emmanuel Moseley
  3. K'Waun Williams
  4. Deommodore Lenoir
  5. Dontae Johnson
  6. Ambry Thomas

This group is one of the team's thinner groups in terms of talent and experience, which is a little concerning given that Jason Verrett has played in more than six games only twice in his career and K'Waun Williams played in just eight games last year.

Still, going over the depth chart, there are six corners on the 53-man after the team sent Davontae Harris to IR and brought back Dontae Johnson.

Lenoir was solid in the preseason, albeit playing against second- and third-stringers, and slots in as the backup nickelback with outside flexibility.

Johnson slots in as the primary outside cornerback with system familiarity and experience, while Ambry Thomas might be one of the inactives for Week 1.

Thomas has not had the best start to his career, struggling a bit in practice, so he'll likely get time to refine his skills and adjust before being on the active roster.

In addition, his inactive status allows the team to use that spot elsewhere where injuries may be.


  1. Jimmie Ward
  2. Jaquiski Tartt
  3. Tavon Wilson
  4. Talanoa Hufanga

The starters from last year return to their same roles this season, although it was uncertain during the offseason due to Jaquiski Tartt being placed on both the Reserve/COVID-19 list and the PUP list.

During Tartt's absence, Wilson spent time at strong safety with the first-team defense, while Hufanga took the second-team reps. However, Hufanga did start the preseason games that Wilson missed due to his own injuries.

Although Hufanga may be the future of this team at the strong safety position, he still has to develop more in coverage, which Tartt is currently better at.

For the backups, Wilson should take the backup free safety role, allowing Hufanga to take the backup strong safety role and play more in the box where he's best at.

Special Teams

  1. Robbie Gould
  2. Mitch Wishnowsky
  3. Taybor Pepper

No surprises with this group, as it didn't have competition heading into the season, and there's only one of each player at their respective positions.

That is my initial projection of the 49ers entire depth for Week 1. Stay tuned for updates as the 49ers get closer to the September 12th matchup against the Lions.
The opinions within this article are those of the writer and, while just as important, are not necessarily those of the site as a whole.


  • DJ
    I doubt Ebukam will start. He's a situational pass rusher at best. Kinlaw can't grow as a pass rusher if you don't give him the opportunities on third down.
    Sep 4, 2021 at 10:16 PM
  • Joel
    One major flaw in your plan, out of the 2 players they can bring up from the PS to make 55 one has to be an OL; so it's against the rules to bring up a QB & WR
    Sep 4, 2021 at 5:00 PM

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