SANTA CLARA, Calif. — The San Francisco 49ers open training camp July 26 at the SAP training facility in Santa Clara. Here’s a 53-man roster projection:
Garoppolo is the unquestioned starter but the Niners have a lot to figure out after that. Mullens and Beathard will battle for the No. 2 job and then San Francisco will have to decide if it wants to keep three quarterbacks. A trade could be possible but the better bet, at least as the season starts, would be on keeping all three until it’s certain that Garoppolo can return to form from a season-ending knee injury.
This is another spot where the Niners might have to carry one more than they traditionally would but again, it’s hard to see them letting go of any of these four backs unless they can work out a trade. McKinnon is the best pass-catcher of the group, Breida is an excellent runner outside the tackles and Coleman can do both. Mostert is a valuable special-teamer, which helps him stick on the roster.
FULLBACK (1): Kyle Juszczyk
Not much suspense here. Juszczyk is a versatile piece and is integral to what the Niners do offensively.
This competition should be one of the stories of the summer for the Niners as they have at least eight legitimate candidates for what will probably be just six roster spots. Pettis, Samuel and Hurd figure to be locks based on recent draft status but from there, the 49ers have to sort through a group that includes Taylor, Goodwin, Bourne, Jordan Matthews and Richie James. Taylor had a strong spring, looks to be healthy and has the inside track on the slot job but there are no guarantees in that group. Matthews is the toughest omission, given that he brings a size element otherwise lacking in the group but the early suspicion here is the Niners favor Bourne’s upside and knowledge of the offense over Matthews’ size.
Kittle is an emerging star but the Niners sought help for him this offseason when they signed Toilolo and drafted Smith. Garrett Celek is the incumbent backup but he’s on the last year of his contract and coming off injuries. Another possibility: the Niners keep two tight ends on the roster, keep two more on the practice squad and ask Juszczyk to fill in the gaps.
This is a spot where the Niners could go a little lighter in order to go heavy at quarterback and running back, but regardless of which players they keep, there’s no doubt they’ll value one thing above all else in their backups: versatility. Coleman is the favorite to nail down the swing tackle spot while Garland and Magnuson can play multiple positions on the line. Garnett needs a strong camp to nail down a job.
There’s no shortage of talent battling for spots, but the Niners seem to have a good mix of options that should allow them to simply go two-deep across the board. Armstead and Thomas have the ability to play all over the line, which means the Niners can afford not to carry more. Jullian Taylor and Kentavius Street figure to make the decisions here a bit more difficult.
With Warner, Alexander and Smith all bouncing back from injuries of varying degrees, the Niners could keep a seventh player early in the season but otherwise, there’s probably not much need to go with more than six. Greenlaw has the potential to push for a starting job in place of Smith, which would put Smith on the bubble, and Mark Nzeocha figures to battle Mayo and Lee for a roster spot as well.
The health of this group will go a long way in determining how it looks as the season begins. Sherman, Verrett, Ward, Tartt, Colbert and Reed have all dealt with some sort of ailment or recovery over the past year-plus. Sherman seems to be back to full strength but the others have more recent issues to conquer. Players like Ward, Moore and Reed are capable of playing multiple spots, which could also give the Niners a bit more roster flexibility.
Gould signing a contract extension prior to camp answers one big roster question. Holba is in at least until Kyle Nelson serves the remaining six games of his suspension.