• Scott Young

49ers' Bubble Watch: Who's going to make the 53-man roster?

The San Francisco 49ers played their third preseason game this week, which means HC Kyle Shanahan, GM John Lynch and the rest of the staff have very few chances to evaluate the roster before the cuts down to the 53-man roster. The fourth preseason game will give us a good sense of who the starters will be and who is still fighting for a roster spot. We’re going to analyze who is on the bubble and make a prediction on the final 53-man roster

Offensive Line

Lock: Joe Staley, Trent Brown, Joshua Garnett, Daniel Kilgore

Strong Bubble: Zane Beadles, Brandon Fusco, Erik Magnuson, Tim Barnes, John Theus

Weak Bubble: Garry Gilliam

Longshot: Norman Price, Andrew Lauderdale, JP Flynn, Darrell Williams, Andrew Gardner

Garry Gilliam seems to be on his way out after being supplanted by John Theus as the first OT off the bench after Joe Staley's injury in the third preseason game against MIN. Personally I would replace Brandon Fusco and Zane Beadles with Darrell Williams and Andrew Lauderdale. The team will need to go all in on the youth movement throughout the roster and OL is no exception. At this point neither Fusco or Beadles are any better than those two players, so it doesn’t make any more sense to keep them.

Quarterbacks

Lock: Brian Hoyer

Strong Bubble: C.J. Beathard

Weak Bubble: Matt Barkley

Longshot: Nick Mullens

C.J. Beathard has done a great job in the limited reps he’s gotten and has already seemingly taken over the backup QB job from Matt Barkley. Shanahan has traditionally kept three QBs on the roster in the past, and with Hoyer's longevity concerns they may need to continue that route. Nick Mullens has some great raw skills and he should fit in well on the practice squad.

Tight End

Lock: Logan Paulsen, George Kittle

Strong Bubble: Cole Hikutini, Garett Celek

Weak Bubble: Blake Bell

I was thinking of keeping Logan Paulsen as the only lock, as he’s the only one who has consistently shown his worth. Kittle has done well in the few snaps he’s gotten, but he still looks to be getting over the hamstring injury he had, and more snaps wouldn’t hurt to see what he can do. Bell and Celek (Bellek?) are likely on their way out. The tossup will be whether they’ve seen enough of Cole Hikutini to replace Vance McDonald with him or if he will take a practice squad spot, but seeing as Vance McDonald was traded to the Steelers this morning, Hikutinis chances look a little better.

Running Backs

Lock: Carlos Hyde, Joe Williams, Matt Breida

Strong Bubble: Raheem Mostert

Weak Bubble: Kapri Bibbs, Tim Hightower

Longshot: Tyler McCloskey

After the third preseason game, I had to move Mostert to strong bubble. He flashed way too much for the coaches not to notice. If he can replicate his production from then in week 4 against the Chargers, then he may just guarantee himself a spot.

Wide Receiver

Lock: Pierre Garçon, Marquise Goodwin, Jeremy Kerley, Trent Taylor, Aldrick Robinson

Strong Bubble: Victor Bolden, Aaron Burbridge

Weak Bubble: DeAndre Carter, DeAndre Smelter, Tim Patrick, Louis Murphy, Kendrick Bourne

Longshot: None

This group could have 10 different permutations and each would be different. While Kendrick Bourne has flashed plenty, they may decide that he doesn’t have enough chemistry with Hoyer and try to sneak him on PS. I could also see them keeping Smelter as a big-bodied red-zone option. I’m most intrigued by the possibility of trades to WR-needy teams.

Offensive Weapon

Lock: Kyle Juszczyk

Nothing else needs to be said.

Defensive Line

Lock: Solomon Thomas, DeForest Buckner, Arik Armstead, Earl Mitchell, Elvis Dumervil, Tank Carradine, Aaron Lynch

Strong Bubble: Quinton Dial, Ronald Blair, Chris Jones, D.J. Jones

Weak Bubble: Pita Taumoepenu

Longshot: Noble Nwachukwu, Leger Douzable, Sen'Derrick Marks

The defensive line is one of the deepest we have ever seen, and there's going to be a lot of tough decisions to be made. Ronald Blair, Quinton Dial, Chris Jones and D.J. Jones have all made strong cases to make the team. Does a trade happen? Maybe to add some LB depth?

Linebacker

Lock: NaVorro Bowman, Reuben Foster, Ray Ray Armstrong, Eli Harold

Strong Bubble: Dekoda Watson, Brock Coyle

Weak Bubble: Shayne Skov, Austin Calitro, Sean Porter

Longshot: None

The LB corps was one of the deeper groups heading into training camp, but sadly a torn pectoral to Malcolm Smith was a tough blow and hurt the depth quite a bit. Watson will likely make the team based on special teams versatility, but I’m not entirely sure how the coaches view this group as of now.

Cornerback

Locks: Rashard Robinson, Ahkello Witherspoon

Strong Bubble: Dontae Johnson, K’Waun Williams

Weak Bubble: Will Redmond, Keith Reaser

Longshot: Will Davis, Prince Charles Iworah, Asa Jackson

Ahkello Witherspoon had a number of bad plays against MIN, but he was drafted pretty high and is their guy. I’m sure they expect some growing pains with fitting in the NFL. Redmond and Reaser are tough choices, but neither has shown very much during the preseason games nor in the joint practices with Denver. Iworah is another great PS candidate.

Safety

Lock: Eric Reid, Jimmie Ward, Jaquiski Tartt

Strong Bubble: Lorenzo Jerome

Weak Bubble: Vinnie Sunseri, Adrian Colbert

Lorenzo Jerome seems to have all but secured himself a spot on the team with how much he has played. The challenge will be Special Teams play as once Jimmie Ward returns fully from injury, Jerome will be relegated back to the bench.

Kicker

Lock: Robbie Gould

Weak Bubble: Nick Rose

Rose had a great 55 yard kick during the game against MIN, but this is Robbie Gould's spot.

Punter

Lock: Bradley Pinion

Long Snapper

Lock: Kyle Nelson

Pinion and Nelson are locked onto the roster.

Now lets take a look at the potential 53-man roster.

QB: Brian Hoyer, C.J. Beathard (2)

RB: Carlos Hyde, Matt Breida, Joe Williams (3)

OW: Kyle Juszczyk (1)

OL: Joe Staley, Trent Brown, Daniel Kilgore, Joshua Garnett, John Theus, Tim Barnes, Erik Magnuson, Brandon Fusco, Andrew Lauderdale (9)

TE: Logan Paulsen, George Kittle, Cole Hikutini (3)

WR: Pierre Garcon, Marquise Goodwin, Trent Taylor, Jeremy Kerley, Victor Bolden, Aldrick Robinson, Aaron Burbridge, Kendrick Bourne (9)

DL: Solomon Thomas, DeForest Buckner, Arik Armstead, Elvis Dumervil,. Aaron Lynch, Tank Carradine, D.J. Jones, Pita Tamoepenu, Chris Jones (9)

LB: NaVorro Bowman, Reuben Foster, Dekoda Watson, Ray-Ray Armstrong, Eli Harold (5)

CB: Dontae Johnson, Rashard Robinson, Ahkello Witherspoon, k’wain Williams, Keith Reaser (5)

S: Jimmie Ward, Eric Reid, Lorenzo Jerome, Jaquiski Tartt (4)

K: Robbie Gould (1)

P: Bradley Pinion (1)

LS: Kyle Nelson (1)

Who do you think will be cut and who do you think will make the team? Let us know on twitter and stay tuned for more great content!

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