49ers 2021 53-man roster prediction

San Francisco 49ers defensive tackle Javon Kinlaw warms up at NFL football training camp in Santa Clara, Calif., Wednesday, July 28, 2021. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

The 49ers will take to the field for the first practice of the 2021 season today. There are a number of interesting battles throughout the roster, especially at quarterback, wide receiver, running back and in the secondary.

In addition, the news from yesterday that Dee Ford and Jalen Hurd will not be placed on the physically unable to perform list (PUP). The versatility that both players bring to the team adds another layer of difficulty to predicting who will make the final 53-man roster out of training camp.

Here is my prediction on how the battles will play out:

Quarterback (3): Jimmy Garoppolo, Trey Lance, Josh Rosen:

Although the 49ers invested heavily to trade up for Lance, Garoppolo will enter training camp as the starting quarterback. How long he is able to hold on to that position will depend almost entirely on Trey Lance’s development.
The other competition at quarterback will be between Josh Rosen and Nate Sudfeld. Neither are signed past this season, but it’s likely that one or both could be in the 49ers plans depending on how they perform. While Rosen has flamed out during previous stops in Arizona, Miami and Tampa Bay, he is still a better quarterback than Sudfeld and should show that during training camp.

Running Back (5): Raheem Mostert, Trey Sermon (R), Wayne Gallman, Elijah Mitchell (R), Kyle Juszczyk:

Mostert will be the starting running back, but things will be interesting behind him. Trey Sermon and Wayne Gallman are both bruising runners that should help to wear down defenses, however Sermon’s history suggests that he will be the better player off the bench given his performance in college at Oklahoma and Ohio State. With the Sooners and Buckeyes, Sermon was often capable of hitting a big run right off the bench, whereas Gallman seemed to get better the more he touched the ball during his time in New York.
Mitchell’s power both inside and out, along with his ability as a receiver will help him earn the final roster spot over JaMycal Hasty.

Wide Receiver (6): Deebo Samuel, Brandon Aiyuk, Richie James, Mohamed Sanu, Jauan Jennings, Jalen Hurd:

Deebo Samuel, Brandon Aiyuk and Richie James are the easy predictions for the 49ers at wide receiver. Mohamed Sanu will make the roster after impressing the coaching staff during OTA’s. His ability to provide veteran leadership to a position room that is very young also plays into his favor.
Jalen Hurd will not be starting training camp on the PUP list, and will be brought along slowly during training camp. The plan is to have Hurd doing only individual work over the course of the first week of training camp. If Hurd is not healthy enough to go, look for River Cracraft and Trent Sherfield to battle for the final roster position.

Tight End (4): George Kittle, Ross Dwelley, MyCole Pruitt, Charlie Woerner:

There isn’t much competition at tight end with only five on the roster and the 49ers usually keeping four. MyCole Pruitt has a $500,000 guarantee which would seem to ensure his spot on the roster, but he could be competing for a spot on the 46-man game day roster with Charlie Woerner. The two would appear to be battling for a role similar to how Shanahan utilized Garrett Celek, the blocking tight end that can do some damage in the passing game when called upon.

Offensive Line (8): Trent Williams, Laken Tomlinson, Alex Mack, Aaron Banks (R), Mike McGlinchey, Colton McKivitz, Daniel Brunskill, Jaylon Moore (R):

The only competition for a starting spot on the offensive line will feature Banks and Brunskill vying to be the right guard. Assuming that Banks wins out, look for Brunskill to focus most of his time on center to ensure better depth behind veteran Alex Mack.

Colton McKivitz has shown the ability to play both guard and tackle, and will need to fend off Shon Coleman for the swing tackle role. Coleman opted out of 2020 and hasn’t played since he suffered a dislocated ankle and broken fibula during the first preseason game of 2019.

Defensive Line (10): Nick Bosa, Javon Kinlaw, D.J. Jones, Arik Armstead, Arden Key, Zach Kerr, Samson Ebukam, Kevin Givens, Dee Ford, Maurice Hurst:

Last week Fred Warner said of Dee Ford, “He looks great — he’s back,” and today it was John Lynch delivering the news that Ford would not start training camp on the PUP list and that the team was “cautiously optimistic.” According to Lynch, Ford will be focusing on individual work for about the first week of camp and not taking part in team drills. A healthy Dee Ford would create too many potential defensive line combinations to fit them all here, and would put the 49ers pass rush squarely in the discussion for best in NFL.

The interior of the defensive line may be the deepest that it has ever been in San Francisco. The 49ers hope to see big improvement from Javon Kinlaw in year two.

Linebacker (4): Fred Warner, Dre Greenlaw, Azeez Al-Shaair, James Burgess:

The core of the linebacker group is obviously Warner and Greenlaw. Al-Shaair did a good job as the third starter a season ago after the 49ers traded Kwon Alexander to New Orleans and he will compete with Burgess for the starting SAM linebacker role. Both Al-Shaair and Burgess will be expected to contribute heavily on special teams as well.

An additional piece to look for here is how the 49ers have shown the tendency to use safeties as the third linebacker at times. In 2017 they utilized Eric Reid in this role, and last season Marcell Harris moved into this role against teams that were more dependent on the passing game. Harris could reprise that role again this season if he makes the team, or look for rookie Talanoa Hufanga to get onto the field this way. The fifth-round draft pick did this often during his time at USC and looks to be a perfect fit here.

Defensive Back (10): Jason Verrett, Emmanuel Moseley, K’Waun Williams, Jaquiski Tartt, Jimmie Ward, Ambry Thomas (R), Deommodore Lenoir (R), Tony Jefferson, Talanoa Hufanga (R), Tavon Wilson

The questions in the secondary are whether their starters can finally stay healthy and who the backups will be at safety.

Although they are rookies, Ambry Thomas and Deommodore Lenoir will likely be the primary backups at cornerback, with Thomas possibly backing up Williams in the slot as well. Emmanuel Moseley being forced to miss time at the start of camp due to being placed on the Reserve/Covid-19 list will mean additional reps for Thomas which could help the rookie close the gap towards a starting position.

Veterans Tony Jefferson and Tavon Wilson will likely be the primary backups at safety and could push Marcell Harris off of the roster.

Specialists (3): Robbie Gould, Mitch Wishnowsky, Taybor Pepper:

The only question surrounding the 49ers special teams is who will be returning kicks, especially kickoffs. In 2020, San Francisco fell to 29th in the league in kickoff returns averaging only 19.3 yards per return. One explanation for this could be the move to utilizing Jerick McKinnon as the primary return option instead of Richie James. On the way to the Super Bowl in 2019, James returned all but one kickoff and averaged 21.4 yards per attempt, including with a long of 81 yards.

Let’s see how you think the roster will look when the team finalizes their 53-man roster after training camp.

Jack Hammer is a lifelong 49ers fan who shares insights on the team, and leads discussion on all football and team topics. Follow Jack on Twitter @JackHammer_NFL and subscribe to his YouTube Channel, YouTube.com/c/JackHammer49.

This article has 16 Comments

  1. On paper Rosen should beat out Sudfeld, but I’ll believe it when I see it.

    Doubt Mostert is the starter. Shanny likes to tenderize the defense first before seasoning. I think Sermon plays the role of Coleman and is the starter.

    I don’t know that Sanu can’t be brought back after week 1. I’ll take Sherfield as the last wr to make the team, and the primary gunner to shore up the special teams unit from last year.

    I think they intend to keep 10 defensive lineman because of players like Brunskill, Harris and Hufanga; all of which can play multiple positions allowing the 49ers the ability to only carry 8 offensive lineman and 4 linebackers. Add Hurst to the roster as the 10th defensive lineman.

    Jefferson is moving on down due to the 49ers probably deciding to go with youth and depth in Harris and Hufanga.

    Everything else looks good to me, Hammer. Well done and thank you.

      1. Really? That’s interesting regarding Harris. I had speculated they might look to do that a bit more this year, with the likes of Harris, Hufanga and potentially even Wilson.

      2. The role of starting running back may not be as relevant as the combined effects of the group. No surprises here, look for a combination of speed and power to great result.
        Aiyuk explodes into a star receiver this year, Talanoa Hufanga is the late round success story.

    1. To be picky, I think Sanu will stick and that either James or Jennings will be the odd man out. Shanahan seems to prefer a big WR3 and alternating Sanu with Hurd, if he remains healthy and doesn’t slip on a banana peel, could be a nice combination. Plus Sanu provides the leadership Deebo and Aiyuk reportedly say they want. I agree that I doubt Mostert will start, and that it will be a Gallman-Sermon committee.

      1. Great to hear from you, George. That last receiver spot needs to be able to play special teams so it’s definitley between James, Jennings, Sherfield and Cracraft.

        1. Hey, Jack. Thanks for your response. I’m very happy for you regarding taking over this blog. I always appreciated your comments when you were “one of us,” and it seems to me that you’ve even gotten better at it since starting at SI. I wish you the greatest of success.

  2. I’ve got good news and bad news. Good first. I agree with much of the analysis especially on the Defensive side. It is conceivable that they bring in a veteran CB in late August. Xavien Howard has requested a trade but I doubt the 49ers can afford him. There will be other available CBs. Keeping 3 QB is a wasted roster space. Jeff Wilson Jr. makes the team. I am looking forward to seeing Jalen Hurd and Kevin White in training camp. White was an incredible athlete coming out of WV.

    But here comes the bad news …

  3. Without further adieu, I would like to file an official complaint with the Press Democrat. In the section immediately above the comments there is an image of a former government employee making unwanted advances upon his own daughter. What a massive Creepola. I thought this was a family website. Please remove .

    1. Bruce, is that an ad rotation space? It may be algorithm populated due to your location or search history?

  4. Jack, There is still a bunch of selfish players (<10% = 9?) who don't care about being part of a team and protect the team. Do you think any players might be put on the Practice Squad or traded/IR because they didn't get vaccinated and jeopardize the team? Bosa, Verret, others?

      1. I’m afraid that it will come into play at the wrong time.
        Losing a player, a game or a team to C-19 is stupid at this point.
        Bosa is already brittle, does he think he’s immune?

  5. As seen on twitter

    NFL Rumors
    #Eagles Nick Mullens was 17/18 with 1 TD so far in team drills. He also went 5/5 with 4 TDs in an extra 7v7 session after practice.

    Geez, if only Grant were there with his good/not so good ?

  6. Jack…Good post…I think that Jennings will beat out James for the last WR . With Deebow, Hurd , Ayuk, Sanu, and Jennings, I think we are extremely well stocked at WR….All of those guys are tough…

    I also agree with Razor.about Sudfeld…once he shakes off the ‘rust…he can be dangerous….

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *