7 Bubble Players the 49ers Need to Keep
Image Credit: Associated Press
As this year’s shortened pre-season comes to an end, the San Francisco 49ers will soon have to trim their roster down to 53 players.
It is a difficult time for players finding themselves at the bottom of the depth chart as they compete for some of the last spots available with the team.
With an additional regular season game to play this year, the importance of roster depth is at an all-time high. Below, we dive into a few players considered to be on the “roster bubble” that we’d like to see remain in red and gold:
1. Marcell Harris, LB #36
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Yes, linebackers can now wear numbers in the 30s, but the reason Marcell Harris wears No. 36 is because he was originally a safety. He worked during the offseason to transition to LB, which was intriguing considering his light frame.
At 6 feet tall and 215 pounds, Harris has impressed coaches in camp with his ball skills and he’s played well during the preseason so far.A fearless tackler with good pursuit skills, Harris looks like a natural at the position and finds himself as a favorite to make the roster.
Fred Warner, a former DB himself, has proved that to become the next elite linebacker in the NFL, pass coverage skills to cover tight ends and shallow routes in the short and intermediate passing game are integral.
Harris fits this new-age DB-converted-to-LB mold of players who drop down in the box to make plays against the run while not getting burned on passing plays. And so far, he definitely looks the part and should see plenty of action on sub-package plays!
2. Jordan Willis, DE, #78
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Despite logging 2.5 sacks in seven games last year and showing promise, the odds for Jordan Willis to be on the 53-man roster didn’t look good after the NFL suspended him for the first six games of the season after violating the league’s policy on performance-enhancing substances.
Since then, however, the San Diego native has shown lots of good things in camp and during the last two pre-season games, registering 1.5 sacks in limited action.
The 49ers have good depth at defensive end and John Lynch said teams have already started inquiring about trades.
A trade for a suspended player is unlikely, and Jordan starting on the suspended list will help the team stash him until he becomes eligible to return.
The odds are looking good for him to be reinstated within the 53 throughout the season, and given what he has shown so far, it should be for the better!
3. Nate Sudfeld, Quarterback, #7
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Very little is known about Nate Sudfeld’s qualities as a passer as he was buried behind Jimmy Garoppolo, Trey Lance, and even Josh Rosen, who occupied most of the headlines throughout camp and preseason.
Sudfeld didn’t even take a snap against Kansas City and saw very limited action (5 passing attempts) during a disjointed end of the game performance last week against the Chargers.
Maybe his strongest endorsements come from the front office, who gave him a significant amount of guaranteed money in his deal, and the fact that the 49ers already cut Rosen before the preseason finale.
Nevertheless, the Modesto native will likely make the cut if the 49ers do truly intend on playing two quarterbacks every game.
It would take too long for any newcomer QB to learn the complex Shanahan offense in such short notice, and San Francisco will need a contingency plan in case anything happens to its top quarterbacks.
By default, it looks like Sudfeld will indeed be making the final roster.
4. JaMycal Hasty, RB, #38
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The 49ers have a plethora of options at running back, and for a bit, it looked like Wayne Gallman Jr. was going to be the odd man out, until the former Giant showed his veteran qualities in vision and pass blocking before leading the team with 72 yards on 15 attempts against the Chargers.
Hasty, an undrafted RB out of Baylor, showed flashes last year before ending on the injured reserve list, and before the 49ers drafted two more RB in the draft with Trey Sermon (in the third round) and Elijah Mitchell (in the sixth).
Mitchell, however, hasn’t been able to show much during preseason due to an injury that’s kept him on the sideline and that could linger going into the season.
This could open the door for Hasty to be included in the last 53. The second-year player has continued to show flashes with speed, agility, and fearless running abilities despite the increase in competition.
5. Zach Kerr, DT, #92
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The former Carolina Panther has raved about this defensive line group and for good reason.
Unfortunately, it is the very strength of this group that has him currently on the roster bubble, behind Arik Armstead (indirectly), Kinlaw, D.J. Jones and possibly Givens, whom DeMeco Ryans has praised during the entire offseason.
The veteran, however, provides a good leadership presence for the group and power to an already stacked defensive line. Kerr has recorded 4 tackles in preseason so far and been able to generate good pressure on passing downs with a quarterback hit.
With Kinlaw’s injury bug looming again, the 49ers might decide to extend their DT room or field a trade offer for one of their younger talents.
Besides, Zach Kerr has already proved he belongs with this team and the fact that he raved about the fan atmosphere at Levi’s Stadium leaves us no other choice but to root for him!
6. Travis Benjamin, WR, #17
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While former pre-season MVP Jalen Hurd continues to battle injuries, Trent Sherfield and Jauan Jennings have seized their opportunities and positioned themselves into virtual locks to not only make the team but contribute on gamedays.
With Deebo Samuel, Brandon Aiyuk, Trent Sherfield, Mohamed Sanu and Jauan Jennings all locks, this probably leaves only one spot between Travis Benjamin, Jalen Hurd, Nsimba Webster.
John Lynch and Kyle Shanahan recent comments would make it seem like Jalen Hurd is set to make the team. His lack of availability, however, has us wondering if these comments are legitimate or if the team is planning on keeping a seventh WR.
Enter Travis Benjamin, a former Shanahan disciple with the Browns, who provides a very coveted trait: speed.
The veteran is still probably the fastest WR currently on the roster. Outside of Aiyuk, Samuel and potentially Sherfield, the 49ers won’t be able to rely on the others to create much separation with pure speed down the field.
That along with his ability to return punts and kickoffs, will make it hard for San Francisco to keep him off the roster.
7. Jordan Matthews, TE, #88
Image Credit: Bay Area News Group
After short stint with the 49ers last year, it seems like Jordan Matthews has been in all the headlines this offseason, as he was in attendance to Trey Lance’s workout with NDSU and famously added more than 30 pounds to make the switch to tight end, before ultimately re-signing with San Francisco.
Matthews is beloved in the locker room and brings a palpable energy when he’s on the field. The entire sideline was rocking after Matthews, who is Jerry Rice’s cousin, made his first catch as a TE during the preseason.
Moreover, Matthews has impressed with his new blocking abilities, on the way to becoming an intriguing prospect.
The TE room is already crowded with Kittle, Dwelley and Woerner, but Matthews benefits from Shanahan’s trust, his experience as an NFL wideout and his leadership presence.
We’ll make sure to root for him to make the team as he continues this fascinating transition in his career.
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