49ers roster: Predicting safety depth after Tarvarius Moore injury

The 49ers lost Tarvarius Moore indefinitely to an Achilles tear during OTAs, meaning the team’s safety depth will undergo a notable shakeup.

Forget about the San Francisco 49ers‘ injury woes of 2020 being a thing of the past.

Nope, those same woes appear to be remaining in full force, at least in terms of two of the Niners’ most recent setbacks: offensive lineman Justin Skule suffering a torn ACL and defensive back Tarvarius Moore tearing his Achilles.

Moore, while never cementing himself as a starter over his three-year career, was still a viable backup capable of playing multiple positions within the secondary, seeing a career-high 52 percent of defensive snaps last year and getting increased looks at strong safety after predominantly being a boundary cornerback and free safety earlier.

With Moore out of the equation indefinitely, San Francisco’s depth at safety is a bit more open a question now, surely opening up a spot for a player who otherwise might not have made the 53-man roster.

Moore wasn’t necessarily guaranteed to make the cut. Be he was certainly on the stronger side of the roster bubble, therefore his upcoming absence shakes up the depth chart a bit.

 

Current safeties on 49ers offseason roster

In the wake of the 49ers adding veteran safety Tony Jefferson, the team now has eight players healthy and contributing at the position on their offseason roster:

  • Jimmie Ward
  • Marcell Harris
  • Talanoa Hufanga
  • Tony Jefferson
  • Jared Mayden
  • Kai Nacua
  • Jaquiski Tartt
  • Tavon Wilson

Teams typically keep four safeties on a regular-season roster, two to start and the other two backing up while also contributing on special teams.

In the Niners’ case, though, it might be wise to add a fifth, especially considering Ward’s injury history, Tartt missing the latter portion of last year with a turf-toe injury and Jefferson having suffered a torn ACL in 2019 and missing all of 2020.

Jefferson still remains a strong candidate to make the 53-man roster, particularly in the wake of losing Moore.

So, if we were to look at those three — Ward, Tartt and Jefferson — as likely locks, which other one or two players end up surviving post-preseason roster cuts?

 

New predictions for 49ers safety depth chart

There are plenty of reasons to believe San Francisco can adequately develop its fifth-round rookie, Hufanga, into a solid contributor in the coming years.

Hufanga, despite not having above-average speed, still found ways to be both a ballhawk and pass-rushing force last season at USC, registering four interceptions and three sacks over just six games with the Trojans.

Read More: Predicting 49ers safety depth after drafting Talanoa Hufanga

While not a complete lock to make the roster, early signs are looking good Hufanga will stick around, likely kicking off his pro career as a special teams contributor and potentially working his way towards becoming a starter down the road.

In the meantime, let’s assume these five end up making the cut:

  1. Jimmie Ward
  2. Jaquiski Tartt
  3. Tony Jefferson
  4. Tavon Wilson
  5. Talanoa Hufanga

Wilson, although he was mostly a special teams ace for the bulk of his career, has far superior pass-coverage skills than Harris, whose 36.6 Pro Football Focus pass-coverage grade is far from ideal.

This assessment likely pushes Harris off the roster by Week 1, but the spot vacated by Moore is now open for grabs.

Mayden and Nacua are nice practice squad candidates potentially worth stashing, but having the veteran presence of someone like Jefferson could pay off measurably while Hufanga acclimates to life at the NFL level.

Hufanga being a strict in-the-box defender also lends credence to the possibility of him being a backup linebacker, too, which adds to his value.

The big kicker, perhaps, is the 49ers having five safeties on their roster, both with regards to many of the players’ existing injury concerns and the fact quality backup depth could easily be needed.

Ideally, though, no one else misses time with a significant injury.