No. 3: SF 49ers Linebacker Joe Walker
Veteran linebacker Joe Walker gets a presumed promotion to the 53-man roster at some point between now and Week 4 for two primary reasons.
The first is fairly obvious. Starting linebacker Fred Warner is still on the reserve/COVID-19 list, and his availability for Week 1 against the Arizona Cardinals will remain in doubt until he’s removed. It’s possible he winds up being shelved until he’s cleared testing protocols, meaning the 49ers will have a numbers-wise shortage at the position.
While the Niners still have two high-quality linebackers capable of starting, Kwon Alexander and Dre Greenlaw, getting the numbers right behind them could mean Walker is promoted as early as Week 1.
Yet Warner’s absence could also alter the depth chart, and the long-term question is whether or not reserve linebacker Azeez Al-Shaair winds up holding onto his own roster spot after an OK effort last year on special teams and rather underperforming delivery over four starts in 2019. Al-Shaair was something of a tackling liability, missing seven total tackles his rookie season.
Walker isn’t necessarily a massive upgrade over Al-Shaair on either defense or special teams. But if the latter winds up going through some rough patches early this season, it wouldn’t be shocking at all to see San Francisco make the move to Walker.