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Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

49ers post-training camp 53-man projection

Rohan Chakravarthi
Aug 9, 2023 at 10:00 AM--

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The San Francisco 49ers have officially concluded with training camp for the 2023 offseason, answering questions about the team's depth at several positions, leading to some heightened position battles with the preseason and the joint practices coming up.

While there are still questions to be answered about the roster, let's do the 53-man projection exercise once again, with my days of being present at training camp aiding the process.

I did my first 53-man projection on the day that training camp started, but there are a few significant changes made to my post-training camp projection, including two potential trades.

Quarterback (3): Brock Purdy, Trey Lance, Sam Darnold

No surprises here at the quarterback position.

While all three of the quarterbacks didn't play poorly during training camp, I wasn't impressed or overwhelmed by any of the three performances, and you could make a fair argument for each signal-caller as to who the best option was over the 11 practices.

But, with Lance and Darnold likely splitting reps throughout the preseason in the competition for the backup quarterback, I don't envision a trade for either player, and frankly don't believe there's much, if any value, for both options.

Running Back (4): Christian McCaffrey, Jordan Mason, Tyrion Davis-Price, Khalan Laborn

Our first big surprise comes at running back, as Khalan Laborn replaces Elijah Mitchell on the post-training camp 53-man projection, allowing the 49ers to keep the undrafted rookie, while still keeping just four backs instead of five. Why?

Ahead of training camp, I didn't envision a scenario where Mitchell didn't make the roster, primarily because I view three rotation backs as a necessity in this offense, given the injury issues that San Francisco has faced at the position, as well as their desire for depth.

With Tyrion Davis-Price on the roster bubble to begin camp, Mitchell was one of those top three, with Mason and McCaffrey in the fold, but after the 2022 third-round pick has exploded onto the scene in training camp, the former sixth-round pick is now expendable, as the 49ers have three quality backs.

Hence, I predict a Mitchell trade, which would be a blow, given his reliability with the ball in his hands, but the back has seen injuries throughout his career, and it could be time for the 49ers to sell high.

As a result, Laborn makes the roster, providing the 49ers with a developable talent at running back who has showcased good potential in limited reps thus far.

Fullback (1): Kyle Juszczyk

Let's move forward.

Wide Receiver (6): Deebo Samuel, Brandon Aiyuk, Jauan Jennings, Ray-Ray McCloud, Danny Gray, Chris Conley

Here's our second change to the post-training camp projection, as I have the 49ers carrying six receivers instead of five, with veteran Chris Conley making the team in addition to the incumbents.

Heading into camp, I thought the 49ers would carry the same five at the position as in 2022, but there was good talent at the backend of the group, with Conley, Willie Snead, Tay Martin, and Ronnie Bell all competing for a roster spot at receiver, and flashing in their own ways.

In my 53-man projection, I have Conley making it over Willie Snead, as I believe one of the veterans might be the better option to make the initial 53-man roster, as opposed to the younger players.

I believe the 49ers can get both Ronnie Bell and Tay Martin as their practice squad wideouts for the upcoming season, with a chance for a roster spot in 2024.

Both Conley and Snead have special-teams experience, alongside a building connection with the 49ers quarterbacks. I can make the argument for Snead, given he was on the roster in 2022 and has been a good locker room player, but lean Conley, given his age, the work he's done this offseason, and his size providing a different body in the room for blocking purposes.

Tight End (4): George Kittle, Charlie Woerner, Cameron Latu, Brayden Willis

It's the same four tight ends as prior to training camp, but I have to say: I was disappointed by what I saw from the tight ends unit during camp.

Behind Kittle, there was a lack of competition, as none of the tight ends really separated themselves through the first half of training camp.

However, Brayden Willis started to get better as camp continued, bursting onto the scene with solid 1-on-1s action, both with separation and his hands, looking like the best option of the backups as camp concluded, solidifying his roster spot.

Latu makes the roster given the 49ers' belief in his potential and his draft status, while I believe the team carries four tight ends, a norm during this regime, with Woerner earning the nod over Ross Dwelley due to his blocking capabilities, which could lead to a bigger role early on as the rookies develop.

Offensive Line (8): Trent Williams, Aaron Banks, Jake Brendel, Spencer Burford, Colton McKivitz, Leroy Watson, Nick Zakelj, Jon Feliciano,

There's one change with my post-training camp projection: the addition of Leroy Watson as the swing tackle over Matt Pryor.

The starting five of Trent Williams, Aaron Banks, Jake Brendel, Spencer Burford, and Colton McKivitz are set. It's the backups and the disparity between choosing eight or night offensive linemen on the 53-man roster that are the main questions.

Starting with the backups, the biggest question is at swing tackle, where I initially pointed to Matt Pryor, but came away fairly disappointed from his performance at training camp, where he was arguably one of the worst players showcased.

Now, I'm going with Leroy Watson, who has flashed at times, and been a player on my eye since the organized team activities(OTAs) period in the offseason. He's raw as a tackle, but a developmental player that frankly might just be the best option at swing tackle for the 49ers, given the underwhelming results that Pryor and Jaylon Moore have put together this offseason and over their careers.

The other question: Does Jason Poe make the 53-man roster? That would require a ninth roster spot for the offensive line, as the 49ers are guaranteed to carry at least one swing tackle, and I prefer that spot go to the wide receivers, who have been better, and could be more impactful in 2023.

In Poe's case, it's tough to see a path to success for him in 2023, as offensive line coach Chris Foerster essentially shared the view that he needs to be a center in the NFL, a position where he still needs to grow, both as a player and a communicator, which may mean a second year of the practice squad could be a better option before making the team in 2024.

Defensive Line (9): Nick Bosa, Arik Armstead, Javon Hargrave, Drake Jackson, Kevin Givens, Clelin Ferrell, T.Y. McGill, Javon Kinlaw, Austin Bryant

Prior to training camp, I thought the 49ers would carry 10 players at the position, projecting players like Kalia Davis and Robert Beal Jr. to make the roster, but softening my stance on the take after certain players have stood out.

Nick Bosa has still yet to report, but we're assuming he signs his contract by the time the 2023 season begins. Still, with Bosa in the fold, I project the 49ers to carry just nine defensive linemen, with the extra roster spot going elsewhere, meaning that the team will need to make some tough decisions at the position.

The biggest question to me is how the 49ers balance their draft picks with veterans at the back end of the roster, specifically with defensive end Robert Beal, whom the team selected with a fifth-round pick this year.

Because I'm going lighter at defensive line, I'm preferring the veteran, which in this case is Austin Bryant, with the hopes that Beal returns as a practice squad player in 2023 and has a better shot in the upcoming.

Several players, such as Bryant, Taco Charlton, and Alex Barrett flashed more than the rookie this past training camp, and I select Bryant, primarily because I believe he's got the best chance of being signed elsewhere to a 53-man roster of the veterans if cut.

Linebacker (6): Fred Warner, Dre Greenlaw,Marcelino McCrary-Ball, Oren Burks, Jalen Graham, Dee Winters

Coming into training camp, I had the 49ers taking five linebackers on their 53-man roster, boldly selecting rookie Jalen Graham to beat out his fellow rookie counterpart, as well as the likes of Demetrius Flannigan-Fowles and Curtis Robinson.

Two weeks later, I feel confident about that prediction, as Graham shined in training camp, making it a tough draw for the 49ers to go away from their rookies come 53-man roster time.

However, in a year full of talent at linebacker, I have the 49ers taking six players, as I believe Dee Winters will make the 53-man roster as well, leaving Curtis Robinson and Demetrius Flannigan-Fowles as the lone players out at the position.

With a strong preseason, I think that Curtis Robinson could be a trade candidate, given his versatility to play inside and outside at linebacker, while his skillset as a more traditional linebacker and special teams ability could be coveted by a number of teams around the league.

As for Demetrius Flannigan-Fowles, the hope is that he returns to the practice squad and is elevated for certain games, due to his special teams ability, which could be beneficial early on.

With Oren Burks in the fold, I think the 49ers go with their rookies over special-teams aces, given their training camp performances, with the hopes of bringing one of the odd men out to the practice squad.

Cornerback (5): Charvarius Ward, Deommodore Lenoir, Isaiah Oliver, Samuel Womack, Darrell Luter Jr.(PUP), D'Shawn Jamison

To begin training camp, I had five cornerbacks penciled in, with Darrell Luter Jr. making the team over Ambry Thomas.

That statement still stands, despite Luter missing all of training camp on the Physically Unable to Perform(PUP) list, but a new face joins, as D'Shawn Jamison should make the 53-man roster after a strong two weeks of practice.

Not only has Jamison impressed the media, but his teammates and coaches have all sung the praises of the undrafted rookie, further indicating his placement with the team, as he has the inside-outside versatility that the 49ers covet with some of their backups.

Thomas, on the other hand, gets cut.

With a talented roster, Luter goes on PUP to begin the season, creating an extra roster spot.

Safety (4): Talanoa Hufanga, Tashaun Gipson, Ji'Ayir Brown, George Odum

Coming into training camp, I wasn't sure what to expect from the backup safeties, and whether there'd be any standout players.

Overall, while I don't have many negative things to share about the group, there weren't many flashes overall from any of the backups, with George Odum taking a majority of the first-team reps whenever Gipson or Hufanga rested, as Brown didn't have the splash plays that came during minicamp and OTAs.

As for the third-stringers, there weren't many flashes, leading to a simple designation of four safeties on the roster, with several practice squad candidates.

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

No, Zane Gonzalez isn't making the roster, despite him being listed with an "OR" on the preseason depth chart next to Jake Moody.
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.

1 Comment

  • Jesse
    Jake Moody kicked so well the team forced Zane Gonzalez to change his first name to "Jake" in attempts to help him improve.
    Aug 9, 2023 at 10:18 AM

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