49ers bring back familiar faces to create 16-man practice squad

Nate Sudfeld #7 of the San Francisco 49ers passes (Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images)
Nate Sudfeld #7 of the San Francisco 49ers passes (Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images) /

Even though the 49ers lost some players to waiver claims they would have liked on their practice squad, a number of well-known players are returning.

The San Francisco 49ers‘ 2021 regular-season roster won’t look anything like it does right now at the end of the year. And there’s a good chance there’ll be some notable changes even between now and Week 1, particularly if the Niners execute some back-end-of-the-roster changes, which are always possible.

There’s not always a ton of movement on practice squads, but the same rules apply here, too. Especially if another team out there winds up signing someone to their own regular-season roster.

Tuesday, Aug. 31 marked the date when all 32 teams had to trim their regular-season roster down to 53 players, followed by a 24-hour window to allocate for waiver claims before teams could create their 16-man practice squads.

That window now passed, San Francisco has its inaugural practice squad in place, and it looks somewhat different than our original predictions.

Not by too much, though.

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Players named to 49ers opening 2021 practice squad

Quarterback Nate Sudfeld

Not too much of a surprise here with head coach Kyle Shanahan keeping only two quarterbacks, Jimmy Garoppolo and Trey Lance, on the 53-man roster.

The 49ers gave Nate Sudfeld $252,000 in guaranteed money, so he still has a nice payout for being named to the practice squad.

Fullback Josh Hokit

The Niners still want an emergency backup for their starting fullback, Kyle Juszczyk, and Josh Hokit will remain that option for the second consecutive year.

Safety Jared Mayden

During his rookie 2020 season, undrafted free-agent safety Jared Mayden had a brief stint on the 53-man roster and saw work on special teams. San Francisco doesn’t have room at safety for Mayden now, but his developmental upside is there.

Linebacker Elijah Sullivan

With fellow UDFA linebacker Justin Hilliard being claimed by the New York Giants, keeping Elijah Sullivan as an emergency call-up option to assist on special teams makes a lot of sense.

Hilliard was featured a lot during the preseason, yet Sullivan flashed his prowess, too.

Tight End Jordan Matthews

The 49ers seem to love Jordan Matthews in one form another. This year, they love him as a tight end.

Tight End Tanner Hudson

After parting ways with blocking tight end MyCole Pruitt, the Niners grabbed another to potentially fill the void by adding former Tampa Bay Buccaneers TE Tanner Hudson.

Offensive Guard Senio Kelemete

One of the previously ineligible veterans who can now be placed on the practice squad, offensive guard Senio Kelemete will be one of those reserve interior players who can be called up in a pinch, should San Francisco’s O-line suffer some attrition.

Cornerback Dee Virgin

Another new face to the team in September, having an additional cover guy never hurts, especially when he’s a three-year pro with special teams prowess under his belt.

Wide Receiver Travis Benjamin

One of the few speedsters on the 49ers’ preseason roster, Travis Benjamin left the exhibition finale with a concussion but likely serves as insurance to guard against injury down the depth chart.

Wide Receiver River Cracraft

Likely little more than return-specialist insurance, River Cracraft remains in the Niners’ plans.

Defensive Lineman Alex Barrett

San Francisco’s defensive line was too deep for Alex Barrett to make the 53-man cut, but he can back up a need on the interior if one arises.

Defensive Lineman Darrion Daniels

Like Barrett, Daniels didn’t have much of a chance to crack the regular-season roster, but he sure was popular for his singing during training camp a year ago.

Offensive Lineman Corbin Kaufusi

More of a project player, Corbin Kaufusi’s 6-foot-9 frame is something worth developing if he can hone his technique along the O-line.

Offensive Lineman Colton McKivitz

A bit of a surprise cut, second-year pro Colton McKivitz lost his roster spot to the veteran O-lineman, Tom Compton. But McKivitz knows the system and flashed some modest improvement late in camp.

Offensive Lineman Alfredo Gutierrez

Part of the NFL International Player Pathway program, Alfred Gutierrez won’t technically count for a practice squad roster spot, instead remaining a developmental lineman.

Richie James clears waivers, reverts to 49ers injured-reserve list

The Niners elected to expose wide receiver and return specialist Richie James to a potential waiver claim after learning he’d need knee surgery and would be out at least six weeks.

There likely wasn’t going to be room for James on the 53-man roster anyway, and especially not after he was struggling with drops during both training camp and preseason games. But with some uncertainty still in the return phase, it’s now possible James returns later in the year.

At least San Francisco is keeping its options open.

Additionally, defensive lineman Maurice Hurst and cornerback Davontae Harris were both placed on injured reserve, and the 49ers re-signed cornerback Dontae Johnson and center Jake Brendel to make up their spots on the 53-man roster, per NBC Sports Bay Area’s Matt Maiocco.

Next. 4 players Niners may regret cutting in 2021. dark