San Francisco 49ers: Predicting 16-man practice squad in 2020

Jared Mayden #8 of the Alabama Crimson Tide (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)
Jared Mayden #8 of the Alabama Crimson Tide (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images) /
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C.J. Beathard, 49ers
C.J. Beathard, San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images) /

49ers Offense

QB C.J. Beathard

The 49ers added only one quarterback to their ranks during the offseason in the form of former North Central College signal-caller Broc Rutter.

But after giving Rutter a whopping $279 signing bonus after the 2020 draft, the 49ers released him when the rosters were cut from 90 to 80 right before training camp. This leaves the quarterback number at the same three it has been for the last two years, with it feeling unlikely head coach Kyle Shanahan and general manager John Lynch will bring in any more.

With that in mind, and given the circumstances surrounding the global pandemic still swirling around the entire country, the most likely outcome is that former third-round draft pick and Shanahan favorite, C.J. Beathard, could be moved from the active roster to the practice squad.

This would allow Shanahan to keep Beathard around, something he’s been working hard to do since the former Iowa Hawkeye arrived in Santa Clara, and open up a valuable roster spot for another position.

Keeping Beathard on the practice squad also separates him a bit from the rest of the quarterback room, hopefully keeping him safer from the virus and injury on the off-chance that starter Jimmy Garoppolo and backup Nick Mullens are unable to play.

It’s possible the 49ers bring Rutter back, but it feels more likely that the Niners’ higher-ups look at this an opportunity to have their quarterback cake and eat it too.

RBs JaMycal Hasty and Salvon Ahmed

Post-draft, the conversation was around which undrafted running back was next on the list of success stories for Shanahan and running back coach Bobby Turner.

Just in their time in San Francisco, the pair have seen former 49er Matt Breida and current players like Raheem Mostert and Jeff Wilson rise from the ashes of not being drafted and turn themselves into viable NFL backs.

This year’s contestants are former Baylor Bear JaMycal Hasty and former Washington Huskie Salvon Ahmed. Both were considered options in terms of making the final roster, but without preseason games it may be harder for the undrafted guys to crack the active group.

But given the recent propensity for 49ers running backs to fall victim to injury and the pandemic, it would make sense to have not one but two options on the practice squad. A sort of “break glass in case of injury” plan for Shanahan’s offense.

Whether both backs will survive the waiver wire, especially given the 49ers’ late slot in the order, would be a question. But if both are available, it would make sense to keep them both around and see more of them.

WR Shawn Poindexter

A lot has been said about the current state of the 49ers receiving corps, especially in light of the injury to second-year pass-catcher Deebo Samuel and unknowns about the health of Jalen Hurd, Trent Taylor, and Richie James. Not to mention whether Dante Pettis can live up to his 2018 draft position.

All that said, there’s a good chance many of the currently active and healthy 49ers’ receivers end up on the final roster. And the decision-makers may choose to keep Samuel on the active roster in spite of his injury rather than place him on the Physically Unable to Perform list to start the season.

That limits the practice squad receiver options to former Florida Gator Chris Thompson and Shawn Poindexter, who tore his ACL during the 2019 preseason but was recently added back to the roster, meaning he’ll be ready to go for 2020.

Poindexter makes the most sense given his unteachable skillset of being very tall, something the 49ers don’t have a lot of on the current roster. He’s still raw in many ways, but a full season on the practice squad, rather than rehabbing an injury, would do him well.

TE Chase Harrell

The recent addition of former Washington tight end Jordan Reed has shaken up the 49ers’ tight end depth chart pretty heavily.

While Reed’s health is a major unknown given his history, his presence puts several players on alert, most notably last year’s No. 2 tight end, Ross Dwelley, who looks like he’ll be on the outside looking in if Reed can return to his old form.

Dwelley is unlikely to clear waivers, so releasing him probably means he’s playing on another team in 2020 given his production last season. This leaves players like 2020 draft pick Charlie Woerner, Daniel Helm, and undrafted free agent Chase Harrell fighting for the final tight end slot on the roster behind All-Pro starter George Kittle.

Woerner is probably the best blocker at the position outside of Kittle, and Shanahan generally prefers to have his third tight end be a specialist in that area, which means he’s likely the player who cracks the roster.

In Harrell the 49ers have an interesting prospect who is making the switch over to tight end from playing wideout at Arkansas, so he’ll need the practice reps, something he won’t get as part of the active roster.

He’s the quintessential practice squad player, and hopefully, he’ll get that chance as part of the 49ers this season.

OLs Ross Reynolds and Jaryd Jones-Smith

The 49ers lost two depth offensive lineman to COVID-19 opt-outs, Shon Coleman and Jake Brendel, leaning the numbers for players who can fit both on the roster beyond the starters and on the practice squad.

The starters — Trent Williams, Laken Tomlinson, Weston Richburg, and Mike McGlinchey — are entrenched minus right guard, but Daniel Brunskill seems to have the upper hand on that position. Ben Garland is likely to stick around to cover for Richburg, who is still on PUP list heading into training camp, and Tom Compton, Justin Skule, and rookie Colton McKivitiz are probably roster locks.

That’s nine offensive linemen that do the job of covering all three positions along the offensive line both in starting form and as reserves.

There are some names that could make the team, including Kofi Amichia and newly signed William Sweet who could be on the list of practice squad options, but the 49ers have been high on Ross Reynolds since he was in camp and he can fill in on the interior, be it at guard or center.

From there it’ll come down to Sweet and Jaryd Jones-Smith to provide coverage at tackle, with the edge being given to Jones-Smith because he’s been around the team longer.