Right after the NFL Draft, analysts start to publish their initial versions of the 53-man roster. At every important turn, from OTAs to Training Camp to each week of the Preseason, they continue to update it accordingly.
I'll be honest, I wasn't very close with a lot of the positions. I didn't anticipate injuries, trades and the unexpected rise of Tank Carradine. Nonetheless, the 49ers announced their 53-man roster on Saturday for Week 1 of the 2017-18 season. Yes -- I know it's the MM Blitz, but it's TM Blitz for this week -- Hub took the day off too.
Let's analyze all the different position groups and understand what it means for the 49ers heading forward.
Quarterback (2): Brian Hoyer, C.J. Beathard:
The 49ers rolled with two quarterbacks and everyone knew if it was two signal callers, QB Matt Barkley would be the odd man out. Hoyer was brought in to be the starter and his role with the team wouldn't be threatened in preseason. If the 49ers kept Barkley, that would mean that Beathard didn't shine in preseason and the team would need to carry three quarterbacks.
Beathard performed well this preseason, but had his fair share of mistakes. The ideal thinking is that if Hoyer goes down at any point with an injury, a veteran quarterback like Barkley can be added pretty easily. The chance of Beathard making a start this season is pretty slim. If he started -- it means that the 49ers season went south faaaaast.
The roster decisions at WR, RB and DL made it tough to keep three quarterbacks, so the 49ers made the right choice and let Barkley go. (Sorry to Rich Madrid -- our SchemeCast expert).
Running Back (3): Carlos Hyde, Matt Breida, Raheem Mostert (with Joe Williams on IR):
This group has me really excited for 2017. Evan Sowards -- our HubCast expert and hype man -- has been pumping up Hyde all offseason and I'm buying whatever he sells. Hyde tweeted out "Comeback Season" on Twitter a few days back and it's the most locked in that I've seen the 49ers' RB.
Breida may be undrafted, but he could be the heir to the throne in San Francisco. He's one my favorites on the team -- I even named my Fantasy Football team after him. Expect for Breida to get all the second-string snaps and be effective in Shanahan's "committee-running" scheme.
Mostert showed out in Minnesota and beat out Hightower for a spot on the roster. He's bounced around the league and it's great to see him get a chance in San Francisco. I don't expect him to get a lot of touches, but his speed and vision are something to look forward to.
RB Joe Williams is the surprise here. He hasn't looked great at all -- not getting a lot of carries and also fumbling the ball a lot. He'll spend 2017 on the IR, so hopefully it'll get him a chance to get ready for next season.
Fullback (or Offensive Weapon (h/t Scott Young)) (1): Kyle Juszczyk:
Juszczyk was going to make the roster and there was never a doubt. No. 44 is going to be a swiss-army knife for the 49ers. Expect for him to get some carries, throws out of the backfield and be dominant in his blocking.
Mark my words: Juszczyk will be the best offensive player on the 49ers this season.
Tight End (3): George Kittle, Logan Paulsen, Garrett Celek:
No more Vance McDonald or Blake Bell. New faces are in for the 49ers, so look to see a lot of change from this group. Kittle will be the most impactful rookie on offense, catching a lot of passes. Paulsen will mostly be involved in blocking, but might surprise with some receptions as well.
Celek will be used seldom and in a similar role to last season. TE Cole Hikutini was my pick to make the 53-man roster over Celek, but I don't think he impressed enough yet. He's back on the Practice Squad, so there's a chance he gets called up at some point during the season.
Wide Receiver (6): Pierre Garcon, Marquise Goodwin, Aldrick Robinson, Trent Taylor, Victor Bolden Jr., Kendrick Bourne
The 49ers have completely revamped their receiving corps, as not a single player was on the roster last year. Garcon is going to be SF's most effective receiver. He has no fear over the middle and will make all the key receptions. I think if Hoyer stays in the entire season, there's a good chance he breaks 1,000 yards.
Goodwin's the home-run threat on the 49ers. His explosive play against Minnesota has me dreaming of endless Hoyer play-action passes to Goodwin. He has top-end speed and it'll keep defenses honest. It's what the 49ers had in mind with WR Torrey Smith, but it never developed due to poor coaching.
Robinson hasn't been getting much attention, but he has the ability of a No. 1 wide receiver. With Julio Jones out last season, Robinson was dominant for the Falcons, so he has that potential within him.
Taylor performed so well, WR Jeremy Kerley was deemed expendable. Bolden Jr. has the best return skills of any 49er I've seen in recent times. Bourne is a polished route runner and also has top-end speed. I look for him to get some snaps, even though he's probably last on the depth chart.
Offensive Line (9): Joe Staley, Trent Brown, Garry Gilliam, John Theus, Zane Beadles, Brandon Fusco, Laken Tomlinson, Daniel Kilgore, Erik Magnuson
Joe Staley and Trent Brown will man the starting tackle spots. Let's hope that Gilliam and Theus won't have to step in. I was hoping the 49ers added some depth here, but they're really banking on 16 games from their starters.
Beadles, Fusco and Tomlinson will man the guard positions, with G Joshua Garnett headed to the IR. Tomlinson was brought over from the Lions -- check out Kyle Breitkreutz's piece on him -- and Fusco and Beadles bring veteran presences.
Kilgore will remain the starter, with undrafted rookie Magnuson as the backup.
Easily the weakest group on the 49ers, but they'll have to move forward into the season and hope that their starters stay healthy and can develop some continuity.
Defensive Line (10): DeForest Buckner, Earl Mitchell, D.J. Jones, Tank Carradine, Arik Armstead, Solomon Thomas, Elvis Dumervil, Aaron Lynch, Pita Taumoepenu, Xavier Cooper
After talking about the 49ers' weakest group, their strongest group is the defensive line. Buckner, Armstead, Thomas and Mitchell will start and be one of the most dominant lines -- on paper. They'll need to put it together this season and prove that the 49ers are building around this group.
Carradine has developed in his new role and may thrive this season. Dumervil still has some gas left in the tank, while Lynch's spot is on the fence. Taumoepenu and Cooper are younger players that wil be extra depth. Jones is a rookie that has high expectations after a strong season at Ole Miss.
Linebackers (6): NaVorro Bowman, Reuben Foster, Ray-Ray Armstrong, Brock Coyle, Eli Harold, Dekoda Watson:
NaVorro Bowman and Reuben Foster headline this position group and I fully expect them to be a top-5 linebacking duo in the NFL by the end of the season.
Armstrong and Coyle will be good depth behind the two, but hopefully the 49ers can upgrade Coyle's roster spot with someone who's better.
Harold and Watson on the outside will provide good pass rush this season. A lot will be expected out of Harold heading into an extension year.
Cornerbacks (5): Rashard Robinson, Dontae Johnson, K'Waun Williams, Ahkello Witherspoon, Keith Reaser:
This is the 49ers' youngest group that has sky-high potential. Robinson has been talking all offseason about his development into a No. 1 corner. It's time to step up and prove it, young fella.
Johnson has been with the 49ers for a while and has never found the right role. Hopefully Johnson can have a good season as the starter across from Robinson.
Williams will be in the slot, with Witherspoon and Reaser as extra depth. This is one group that can't have injuries, as they are really thin on production here.
Safeties (5): Jimmie Ward, Eric Reid, Jaquiski Tartt, Lorenzo Jerome, Adrian Colbert
Ward and Reid are going to be the starting duo and can be as dominant as the duo in Seattle -- Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor.
Tartt is going to play the "Deone Bucanon" role this season, while Jerome and Colbert impressed as rookies to earn roster spots.
Specialists (3): Robbie Gould, Bradley Pinion, Kyle Nelson:
Easy choice here.