49ers 53-man roster predictions ahead of final wave of 2021 cuts

San Francisco 49ers tight end George Kittle (85) and quarterback Trey Lance (5) Mandatory Credit: Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports
San Francisco 49ers tight end George Kittle (85) and quarterback Trey Lance (5) Mandatory Credit: Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports /
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Nick Bosa, San Francisco 49ers
San Francisco 49ers defensive end Nick Bosa (97) Mandatory Credit: Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports /

49ers Defensive Lineman (10)

DE Arik Armstead

DT Javon Kinlaw

EDGE Nick Bosa

EDGE Dee Ford

EDGE Samson Ebukam

EDGE Arden Key

DT Maurice Hurst

DE Kentavius Street

DT D.J Jones

DT Zach Kerr/DE Jordan Willis (suspended)

This remains the deepest unit on the roster and it seems likely that this will lead to the 49ers keeping the most players along the defensive line than anywhere else.

Several players are no-doubt roster locks: Arik Armstead, Javon Kinlaw, Nick Bosa, Samson Ebukam, D.J. Jones, and, perhaps most shockingly, Dee Ford, leaving maybe four spots for other players to provide depth.

Kentavius Street is having a phenomenal training camp and preseason, playing himself onto the roster after an up-and-down start to his career with San Francisco. While he mostly provides interior pass-rush depth, he can also spell Armstead as a defensive end in base downs when called upon.

Another standout this preseason has been former Raider Arden Key who seems to have cemented himself as the third edge rusher on this team, proving to be a more refined pass-rusher than free-agent addition Ebukam.

If Key can provide depth along the edge, that would be vital to the 49ers’ defensive line.

Then comes the question of what to do with the depth behind second-year defensive tackle Javon Kinlaw and the rotation at the nose tackle position. Jones appears to be the de facto starter at the nose position, but Zach Kerr has been playing well this preseason, as was Maurice Hurst before he injured his ankle in Week 2 of the preseason against the Los Angeles Chargers.

Hurst wasn’t placed on injured reserve, however, suggesting the Niners either intend to release him or add him to the roster even as he recovers from his high-ankle sprain. That could spell trouble for Kerr, with the likelihood of three nose tackles making the roster seemingly low.

The elephant in the defensive line room is Jordan Willis, who will be suspended for the first six games he’s on a roster, but would need to make the 53 if the 49ers intend to keep him.

It could come down to Kerr or Willis, although they are two wildly different players. If the 49ers feel they are set with their four pass-rushers then it may be Kerr, otherwise, they may use a roster spot to maintain the suspended Willis, hopefully then snatching back Kerr once Willis is placed on the suspended list.