DLs Jonathan Kongbo, Alex Barrett, and Darrion Daniels
Depth is a key element of the 49ers defensive line philosophy, and so it stands to reason that they’d seek to create longterm depth along that unit in order to build a pipeline of success along that line.
All three of Jonathan Kongbo, Alex Barrett, and Darrion Daniels are young and often still raw prospects who could use the reps that being on the practice squad would provide. This is especially true of someone like Kongbo who possesses the physical attributes of a dominant EDGE rusher (6-foot-5, 254 pounds), but lacks the experience at the position.
Other players, like interior defensive lineman Kevin Givens and EDGE rusher Kerry Hyder, are likely to be in the 49ers’ roster plans for 2020 but could be veteran guys on the practice squad if they were to pass through waivers.
Another name to watch there would be Kentavius Street, who has struggled to stay healthy during his NFL career but could be stashed on the practice squad if necessary.
LBs Demetrius Flannigan-Fowles and Jonas Griffith
Pretty much the entirety of the 49ers current crop of linebackers has a solid chance of making the roster or being cut and picked up elsewhere.
Of the group, middle linebacker Fred Warner, outside backers Dre Greenlaw and Kwon Alexander, and Azeez Al-Shaair are roster locks, with one of either Joe Walker or Mark Nzeocha stepping up as the linebacker on special teams, possibly even both if the numbers work out.
The odd man out will be someone the 49ers would like to keep on the practice squad but seems likely to clear waivers.
That leaves rookie Jonas Griffith and Demetrius Flannigan-Fowles as practice squad options, and it feels like a good chance that both make the group, with Flannigan-Fowles being one of the players who could be on the move if the active roster needs help.
The former Arizona Wildcat has a year in defensive coordinator Robert Saleh’s system, which gives him a leg up, but Griffith, a rookie out of Indiana State, could find his way there, too.
CBs DeMarkus Acy, Jamar Taylor, and Dontae Johnson
To be honest, there isn’t a lot of defensive back depth beyond the players that are likely to make the final roster.
With Richard Sherman, Emmanuel Moseley, Ahkello Witherspoon, and K’Waun Williams as anywhere from locks to very likely, and others like Tim Harris and Jason Verrett probably either making the team or getting cut altogether, the unit gets thin from there.
My best guess is that the 49ers would prefer to not force Harris, a 2019 draft pick who sat out last season with an injury, onto the roster so soon, but they’d also prefer not to subject him to waivers and essentially blow the draft pick.
In Verrett, the 49ers are either going to have a healthy contributor or someone who might be facing the end of his NFL career. If the former Charger can’t crack the final roster, it feels like the 49ers will be happy to move on and not use even a practice squad slot on him.
This leaves just a few options, two of which fit under the veteran tag.
DeMarkus Acy is an undrafted free agent out of Missouri who fits the physical profile that the team is usually looking for at the position (6-2, 195). But he could use some seasoning, and a year on the practice squad will do him good in that regard.
Veterans Jamar Taylor and Dontae Johnson would be players that the 49ers would want to have around in case of injury or COVID-19 cases among their key cornerbacks. And even though both would be a step down from the starters and even the depth guys, at least both are veterans with the system familiarity to step up in case of emergency.
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Let’s simply say this: it’s even more likely that Acy is the only player who makes this list when all is said and done, but given the current roster, these seem like the best options.
Safety Jared Mayden
Former Alabama defensive back Jared Mayden is one of the more versatile members of the 49ers secondary and he has yet to play a single snap in the NFL.
Mayden played all across the defensive backfield during his time as a member of the Crimson Tide, finishing up his senior year mostly as a safety.
This might make him an interesting player for plenty of teams around the NFL, meaning the 49ers will have to be careful with subjecting him to waivers and may need to get clever by adding him to the initial 53-man roster in order to keep him around.
In any case, the rest of the safeties — namely Jimmie Ward, Jacquiski Tartt, Tarvarius Moore, and Marcell Harris — are pretty much roster locks, so Mayden could be the odd man out.
But depending on how the 49ers feel about him, they may elect to keep him around and then stash him, much like with what happened to cornerback Tim Harris last season.