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USA Today Sports Media Group
USA Today Sports Media Group
Kyle Madson

49ers 53-man roster projection 4.0: Several changes after preseason opener

There’s one preseason game in the books for the 49ers, which means its time to update our 53-man roster projection.

Sunday’s loss was a doozy for San Francisco where some players who needed strong outings got them, while others struggled significantly enough that it altered our projection quite a bit from our mid-training camp update. Injuries also played a role in some of the maneuvering.

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Here’s a look at how we think the 49ers’ 53-man roster will shake out after cuts:

Quarterback (3)

(Photo by Ian Maule/Getty Images)

Brock Purdy
Sam Darnold
Trey Lance

Darnold took the lead in the backup QB battle with his performance in the preseason opener. For now it’s Lance as the QB3 with Brandon Allen landing as the odd man out.

Running back (4)

(Photo by Steve Marcus/Getty Images)

Christian McCaffrey
Elijah Mitchell
Tyrion Davis-Price
Jordan Mason

No changes here. Davis-Price looked more effective than Mason against Las Vegas, but it’s hard to evaluate the RBs much behind a shoddy offensive line with no game planning. Neither Jeremy McNichols nor Khalan Laborn got significant work vs. the Raiders.

Fullback (1)

(Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

Kyle Juszczyk

Not even Jack Colletto’s special teams contributions will unseat Juszczyk.

Wide receiver (6)

(Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

Deebo Samuel
Brandon Aiyuk
Jauan Jennings
Ray-Ray McCloud
Danny Gray
Ronnie Bell

So there’s a small caveat here. McCloud suffered a broken wrist that could keep him out for the first few weeks of the regular season. In our projection he’s making the roster, but will go on injured reserve immediately after cuts are finalized (more on this later). He’d need to spend four weeks on IR before being able to return, and those additional four weeks line up with the eight-week timeline for return head coach Kyle Shanahan gave after the injury.

Bell is the beneficiary here after a strong preseason debut where he contributed as the team’s starting kick returner and their leading receiver.

Tight end (4)

(Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

George Kittle
Charlie Woerner
Ross Dwelley
Brayden Willis

Cameron Latu falls out of the projection here after a rough preseason debut. He’s eclipsed by his fellow rookie, Willis, who had a nice special teams tackle and pulled in his lone target with a good snag near the sideline. There’s still plenty to play out in this group though since Troy Fumagalli had a nice showing as well. Watch the TEs closely over the final two preseason bouts.

Offensive line (8)

(Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

Trent Williams
Colton McKivitz
Jaylon Moore
Matt Pryor
Spencer Burford
Aaron Banks
Jake Brendel
Jon Feliciano

This is where things get tricky for San Francisco. Keeping McCloud on the initial 53-man roster means cutting a player from another spot. We went with second-year OL Nick Zakelj, who struggled badly against the Raiders. He’s still developing as an interior lineman though and would likely clear waivers, which would allow San Francisco to bring him back to their active roster once McCloud is placed on IR.

They could conceivably do this at any position where they’re confident they can sneak a player through waivers.

Defensive line (9)

(Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

Nick Bosa
Drake Jackson
Austin Bryant
Clelin Ferrell
Arik Armstead
Javon Hargrave
Javon Kinlaw
Kevin Givens
T.Y. McGill

To make room at another position (more on this shortly) we left Kerry Hyder off the DL group this time. San Francisco loves his versatility, but that has to come with some level of production and Hyder wasn’t great in the preseason opener after an okay 2022 campaign.

Linebacker (5)

(Photo by Ian Maule/Getty Images)

Fred Warner
Dre Greenlaw
Oren Burks
Jalen Graham
Dee Winters

The 49ers may be forced to cut down at another position to keep an additional linebacker. They have so much talent at this spot. Marcelino McCrary-Ball and Demetrius Flannigan-Fowles both belong on NFL rosters, but they’re missing the cut for San Francisco here after the two draft picks, Graham and Winters, played well in the preseason opener.

Cornerback (6)

(Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

Charvarius Ward
Deommodore Lenoir
Isaiah Oliver
Samuel Womack
D’Shawn Jamison
Ambry Thomas

Thomas is the beneficiary of the one fewer defensive lineman. We originally had five CBs making the team, but it jumped to six when Jamison flashed as a returner and Thomas put together an excellent defensive game vs. Las Vegas. Oliver isn’t a lock to make the roster though, which could ultimately lead the 49ers to going with five CBs and maybe keeping a sixth linebacker.

Safety (4)

(Photo by Ian Maule/Getty Images)

Talanoa Hufanga
Tashaun Gipson
Ji’Ayir Brown
George Odum

Odum has an SC joint sprain in his left shoulder which will keep out for the remainder of the preseason, but head coach Kyle Shanahan anticipates he’ll return for Week 1. That means we don’t have to do anything weird with the roster to account for him on an injured list.

Specialists (3)

(Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

Jake Moody
Mitch Wishnowsky
Taybor Pepper

Nothing changed here even after Moody struggled in Vegas. There are no panic buttons being hit over the kicker in Santa Clara though.

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