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Final 49ers 53-man roster projection

Rohan Chakravarthi
Aug 28, 2023 at 3:04 PM--

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The San Francisco 49ers have one of the NFL's strongest teams top-to-bottom due to their core of elite players they've developed via the draft, and obtained via free agency or the trade market.

However, even the strongest teams face tough roster decisions come roster cutdown time, and the 49ers are no different this year, with some position groups stronger than others, which led to some intriguing training camp battles.

With the cutdown date tomorrow (8/29) at 1:00 PM, here is my final 53-man projection for the 49ers.

Quarterback (2): Brock Purdy, Sam Darnold

With Trey Lance officially moved to the Dallas Cowboys, the 49ers have a slight change at the quarterback position.

Sam Darnold moves into the backup role behind Brock Purdy, while Brandon Allen is currently the third quarterback on the roster. However, I don't think the 49ers should spend that extra spot to roster Allen, as there could be better options on the market after cutdown date, while it allows them to utilize that spot elsewhere.

Additionally, the trade for Trey Lance could've been made to help free up a roster spot, as the 49ers would've had to carry all three of Darnold, Purdy, and Lance, should they have kept the latter.

Running Back (4): Christian McCaffrey, Elijah Mitchell, Jordan Mason, Tyrion Davis-Price

No changes here with this position. The 49ers have one of the strongest running back rooms they've rostered in a while with capable depth pieces backing up an elite option in Christian McCaffrey.

Khalan Laborn was an intriguing name, but the 49ers cut both him and fellow undrafted running back Ronald Awatt earlier in the preseason, while holding onto Elijah Mitchell.

The 49ers could bring Laborn back on the practice squad, should he clear waivers and desire a return to San Francisco.

Fullback (1): Kyle Juszczyk

Let's move forward.

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

Two weeks after my most recent projection, I have the 49ers carrying the same six receivers, but it comes under different pretenses, as McCloud and Gray are both suffering injuries at the moment.

Depending on the severity of their respective injuries, the 49ers could place one or both of the receivers on Injured Reserve(IR), allowing a chance for veterans Chris Conley and Willie Snead to rejoin the roster on cutdown day.

However, another option that may be more likely is keeping all six on the active roster, and re-signing Conley and Snead to the practice squad, where they could see call-ups early in the season while McCloud and Gray rehab.

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

Tight end has been more of a disappointing group this offseason, with Cameron Latu, the 49ers' third-round pick in 2023, struggling, and none of the options truly separating themselves in a weaker battle.

However, Willis looked good enough in training camp and the preseason to warrant a roster spot, meaning the true battle was between Woerner, Ross Dwelley, and Troy Fumagalli.

I have Woerner taking that spot, but the action might not be done at the position, as Latu will require surgery to repair a meniscus injury that should sideline him for a while.

The 49ers could place him on season-ending IR, saving a roster spot for another tight end, or roster him on the 53 before sending him to IR and bringing back Fumagalli, who has looked solid this offseason.

Offensive Line (8): Trent Williams, Aaron Banks, Jake Brendel, Spencer Burford, Colton McKivitz, Jaylon Moore, Jon Feliciano, Ilm Manning

EDIT: I did decide to change my opinion, placing Ilm Manning on the 53-man roster over Nick Zakelj. This has been a move I've debated for a while, but Manning is simply the better player overall, and I'm sticking with my opinion from two weeks ago.

This is easily the weakest group, depth-wise, that the 49ers have on their roster, and I don't think it's close.

I initially thought of making one change on my 53-man projection from my last list ahead of Tuesday's cutdown date, rostering Nick Zakelj over Ilm Manning, who I believe will make it onto the practice squad, but switched it up and will continue to have Manning on my 53.

However, I could definitely see both being practice squad candidates, and I don't think the 49ers are done at this position yet.

They haven't been impressed with their swing tackle options, which I predicted early in the offseason, and could look for an outside option via trade or free agency.

That's why I have Jaylon Moore making it, while Zakelj earns the nod over Matt Pryor. Still, this group is a toss-up, and I could see a variety of possibilities on the backend.

Defensive Line (8): Arik Armstead, Javon Hargrave, Drake Jackson, Kevin Givens, Clelin Ferrell, T.Y. McGill, Austin Bryant, Javon Kinlaw

Defensive line is another position where the 49ers could have a multitude of possibilities, depending on whether they want more versatile players, interior defensive lineman compared to edge guys, and other questions.

However, in my final 53-man projection, I have two changes with new information present.

First, Nick Bosa isn't on the list, as the defensive end hasn't signed an extension yet, and I don't envision one before Tuesday's cutdown date. If the 49ers don't reach an agreement yet, Bosa would remain on the reserve list, and not count towards the 53-man roster until signed.

That allows the 49ers to save a roster spot, potentially allowing for another player to make the 53, or another to hit Injured Reserve.

Additionally, I have Austin Bryant making it over Robert Beal Jr. Bryant has been a solid player at the edge rusher position for the 49ers, and provides good pass-rushing depth for a team that doesn't have many options at defensive end.

I do believe Beal will make it to the practice squad as well, hence the decision for Bryant.

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

With the cutdown date coming up tomorrow, I have one change on my 53-man projection: swapping Demetrius Flannigan-Fowles and Marcelino McCrary-Ball.

McCrary-Ball was a training camp flasher, but may need more seasoning, which another year on the practice squad will provide. Additionally, Flannigan-Fowles's contract has $1.25 million in dead cap, which is a tough pill to swallow.

However, I do think both rookies make the final 53-man roster, as they're both valuable enough to not place them on waivers for fear of getting claimed.

I also wouldn't be surprised at a last-minute move at the position for the 49ers to offload on one of their depth pieces.

Cornerback (6): Charvarius Ward, Deommodore Lenoir, Isaiah Oliver, Samuel Womack, Ambry Thomas, and D'Shawn Jamison

Two weeks later, my projection for the cornerback room remains the same.

Despite an uneven offseason, it's tough for the 49ers to cut Isaiah Oliver in favor of a player like Qwuantrezz Knight due to the $2.91 million dead cap he'd incur if released.

Ward and Lenoir are the starters, while Womack and Thomas have impressed as outside cornerback options.

The real domino is undrafted rookie D'Shawn Jamison. I believe he makes the 53-man roster, instead of being risked on waivers, as he has versatility and special-teams capability too, which the 49ers will need early on.

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

Tayler Hawkins was the true domino at this position, but the 49ers' safety suffered a broken hand that could affect his availability this season.

To stash him, I wouldn't be surprised if the 49ers placed him on season-ending IR, but his injury leaves the 49ers with their four safeties in Hufanga, Gipson, Brown, and Odum.

The 49ers could also roster him and immediately relocate him to IR, as Steve Wilks has spoken highly about the safety this offseason.

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

Kicker injuries have placed the Week 1 starter in doubt, as the 49ers may have to go with an outside-the-building option instead of Moody or Zane Gonzalez, who will miss a few weeks with a calf strain.

The 49ers could do one of two things: Keep Jake Moody on the 53-man roster and move him immediately to IR while signing a kicker to the active roster or keep Moody on the 53-man roster and sign a kicker to the practice squad, calling him up for the first few weeks while Moody rehabs.
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.
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