Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports


49ers’ biggest winners and losers from the 2017 preseason

Sep 1, 2017 at 11:29 AM


The San Francisco 49ers wrapped up their 2017 preseason with a 23-13 win over the Los Angeles Chargers Thursday night. As roster cuts approach, let's look at the Niners' biggest winners and losers from this exhibition period.


NFL roster cuts are looming, and the San Francisco 49ers will have to trim their 90-man offseason roster down to 53 players by 4 p.m. ET on September 2.

49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan's squad finished 2-2 during the preseason -- a somewhat meaningless record, although there are some clear-cut winners and losers from the four games leading up to actual football.

Some of the preseason losers will find themselves a part of those cuts. Winners might be cut as well. That's just how the NFL works.

Regardless, let's break down some of the Niners' biggest winners and losers from the preseason.

Winners


Running Back Matt Breida

Rookie tailback Matt Breida's senior year was probably a main reason the Georgia Southern prospect went undrafted, although he's more than made up for a lack of 2016 collegiate impact during offseason activities and the preseason. Towards the end of training camp, though, Breida might have been on the fringes of the 53-man roster.

Yet if Week 3 of the preseason was any indication -- the game which most resembles the regular season -- Breida could easily wind up being the No. 2 tailback behind Carlos Hyde. After all, both Hyde and Breida were the lone featured backs over the first half of action versus the Minnesota Vikings. Both had seven rushes apiece, and Breida averaged 4.1 yards per carry.

Breida didn't play in San Francisco's final preseason tuneup, which is a likely indication he's safe on the roster.

Wide Receiver Victor Bolden Jr.

Another undrafted free agent on the fringes of the 49ers roster earlier this offseason was wide receiver Victor Bolden Jr.

Bolden, 5-foot-8 and 178 pounds, doesn't exactly have the size to stand out from the NFL's shortest crop of wide receivers. Despite Bolden's positive attributes, one might think the former Oregon State standout would be just another slot-type receiver.

But Bolden's contributions on special teams this preseason have all but pushed him into a real discussion to make the cut. Against the Denver Broncos in Week 2, Bolden returned a 104-yard kickoff return for a touchdown. OK, so that might have been the proverbial "lightning in the bottle," but the rookie backed it up with a 92-yard punt return that found end-zone paydirt against Los Angeles:


Two touchdown returns on special teams during the preseason is nothing to scoff at. More importantly, Bolden offers some explosiveness in the return game that the Niners haven't had for some time now.

Running Back Raheem Mostert

Like Breida, running back Raheem Mostert was another one of those names on the roster bubble heading into the preseason. Unlike Breida, though, Mostert didn't have the luxury of being part of the 49ers' new regime. Needless to say, he had a bit more to prove.

He did, especially in preseason Week 3 against the Vikings.

Mostert's 87-yard touchdown reception off a screen pass from quarterback C.J. Beathard probably wasn't enough to secure a roster spot. It helped, but the running back's 6.5 yards-per-carry average during the game likely pushed him over the top.

It also helps that Mostert has special teams abilities, which go a long way towards increasing his roster value. He might not be towards the top of the tailback depth chart, and could be a regular inactive on game day, but Mostert looks like a safe bet to make the 53-man roster right now.

Tight End Garrett Celek

San Francisco's trade of tight end Vance McDonald to the Pittsburgh Steelers certainly increased fellow TE Garrett Celek's chances of sticking around with the 49ers this season.

Celek hasn't made much of an impact this preseason and didn't play at all during the final week of exhibition action. That means one of two things -- either the Niners are comfortable with him filling out one of the two spots behind rookie tight end George Kittle, or they want to cut him but didn't want to risk facing an injury and subsequent settlement. Either way, it's likely the Niners know what they have in Celek's abilities.

UDFA tight end Cole Hikutini is a likable prospect, especially in the passing game. But his blocking woes are probably enough to keep him off the 53-man roster and destined to the practice squad.

This is also good news for Celek, who could easily wind up being the No. 2 or No. 3 tight end on the Week 1 roster.

Losers


Running Back Joe Williams

Rookie running back Joe Williams saw 26 carries against Los Angeles, which is a bit of an interesting sign. He also had a fumble, and that's been something of a problem during his collegiate career and during training camp.

Williams got off to a slow start at camp but did flash some explosiveness to kick off the preseason. That wasn't enough, though, to move him ahead of Breida on the depth chart. All one needed to see was Breida taking away first-team carries against the Broncos to validate that.

The 49ers probably won't turn their backs on Williams -- a fourth-round pick from this year's NFL Draft -- just yet. Williams is safer than others, when it comes to his chances to make the roster. Yet it wouldn't be surprising to see him get only a handful of carries early on until the fumbling issues are resolved.

RELATED Will John Lynch argue to keep Joe Williams off the roster?

Cornerback Will Redmond

Second-year cornerback Will Redmond had a forgotten rookie season, redshirting from a collegiate ACL tear. And he didn't do himself any favors during training camp, all but losing out the nickel duties to K'Waun Williams.

Redmond dealt with an ankle injury for most of the preseason and saw only 29 combined snaps during the Niners' first preseason game against the Chiefs. He didn't play at all for the remaining preseason games.

Needless to say, this didn't help his chances.

Redmond, a former third-round pick, looks to be yet another one of former general manager Trent Baalke's draft gaffes, and the 49ers seem destined to part ways with the player, who never got off the ground at the pro level.

Offensive Guard Joshua Garnett

Second-year guard Joshua Garnett suffered a knee injury, requiring surgery, earlier during training camp. His status, at the time, remained in doubt. And San Francisco was forced to roll with the linemen it had on its roster.

There was hope Garnett could return early in the regular season, the only question being when.

But the Niners' trade acquisition of former Detroit Lions guard Laken Tomlinson casts even more doubt on Garnett's immediate future. Per Chris Biderman of the Niners Wire, the 49ers are going to place Garnett on injured reserve to start the season. The only question is whether or not it's going to be of the short-term variety or a season-long placement.

"That's something we got to sit down with Josh and talk more about, which I'd like to do more tomorrow; and the doctors," Shanahan said following Thursday's game, per Biderman. "We're going to talk about the different options and what it means to him this year, what it means to him next year and all that."

If Garnett does return, it won't be before Week 7.

Wide Receiver Jeremy Kerley

It made perfect sense for the 49ers to re-sign wide receiver Jeremy Kerley to a three-year deal entering 2017. There's no way San Francisco could have guessed it would land players like Trent Taylor in the NFL Draft, or someone like Bolden would have created such a buzz during the preseason.

These two, especially, have made Kerley something of an excess commodity. Again, the 49ers have a ton of slot-like receivers on their roster. While Kerley, 5-foot-9 and 188 pounds, is among the most experienced options at this position, one could argue that his roster spot would be best served for another more-promising talent. Taylor is a safe bet to make the roster. But choosing between Kerley and Bolden is much tougher.


The Niners probably won't cut Kerley outright. His contract likely prevents that. But it is very possible San Francisco tries to move him, via a trade, to one of a number of receiver-needy teams out there.

For San Francisco, though, it's a good position to be in -- three talented options for one position.

Let's just hope, for Kerley's sake, any transaction doesn't involve the New York Jets.
  • Written by:
    Peter Panacy has been writing about the 49ers since 2011 for outlets like Bleacher Report, Niner Noise, 49ers Webzone, and is occasionally heard as a guest on San Francisco's 95.7 FM The Game and the Niners' flagship station, KNBR 680. Feel free to follow him, or direct any inquiries to his Twitter account.
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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