49ers 53-man roster predictions: Offense (23)
Offensive tackle (4): Trent Williams, Mike McGlinchey, Colton McKivitz, Jaylon Moore
Offensive guard (4): Aaron Banks, Spencer Burford*, Daniel Brunskill, Jason Poe*
Center (1): Jake Brendel
Eight offensive linemen might be the play if everyone was healthy, especially with rookie Spencer Burford primed to take over the starting right guard spot, relegating Daniel Brunskill back into an uber-backup role capable of supporting all five spots.
But Brunskill is banged up, Mike McGlinchey is still working his way back from last year’s quad tear and even Jaylon Moore isn’t entirely healthy.
That makes a difference here, although the promising play of the two rookies, Burford and Jason Poe, during training camp and into the preseason will be something to watch.
Neither may be close to playing at an All-Pro level like Trent Williams, of course, but they do help alleviate some concerns about the interior of San Francisco’s O-line.
Tight end (3): George Kittle, Tyler Kroft, Charlie Woerner
Waiving Tanner Hudson helped thin out the logjam a little bit at tight end, yet the situation behind George Kittle still remains awfully fluid.
Getting Charlie Woerner back of the PUP list for the preseason finale against Houston is interesting, and it’s also worth pointing out Woerner saw more snaps in 2021 than his counterpart, Ross Dwelley, who is the odd man out in this three-man tight end group with the offseason addition of Tyler Kroft.
Kroft might not be the same player he was back during his seven-touchdown campaign with the Cincinnati Bengals in 2017, but he certainly offers more offensive upside than Dwelley.
Wide receiver (5): Deebo Samuel, Brandon Aiyuk, Jauan Jennings, Ray-Ray McCloud, Danny Gray*
Kyle Shanahan has rarely carried six wide receivers on a 53-man roster, although there’s an argument to keep Malik Turner around as a sixth wideout based on his special teams prowess.
Perhaps the 49ers are thinking that way, but the lion’s share of field time will go to Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk anyway, while rookie Danny Gray’s speed has been something to watch. Likewise, Ray-Ray McCloud’s status is safe based solely on his abilities as a return specialist, although it won’t be shocking whatsoever to see him mixed in with Jauan Jennings out of the slot.
Jennings has dealt with some drops during camp and in the preseason, which is concerning and could at least put him on the bubble, albeit on the stronger side.
However, given Jennings’ size, strength and reputation for coming up big on third downs last year, he’s likely safe.
Halfback (5): Elijah Mitchell, Jeff Wilson, Trey Sermon, Tyrion Davis-Price*, Jordan Mason*
Fullback (1): Kyle Juszczyk
This one is awfully tough.
The Niners’ two third-round running backs, Trey Sermon and Tyrion Davis-Price, haven’t exactly wowed in preseason action yet. Sure, Sermon has been banged up, and Davis-Price is still acclimating to the league. But, with Elijah Mitchell missing the preseason to get healthy for when the games count, perhaps either one of those other two could have seized a bigger role.
Each player has a reason why he should be on the team. Jeff Wilson because he’s vastly underrated, both as a strong rusher and a pass-catcher, Sermon and Davis-Price because of their draft stock, JaMycal Hasty because of the strides he made during the preseason this year and, perhaps most notably, undrafted rookie Jordan Mason.
Mason has been the most productive, at least in terms of yards, during the exhibition phase. But almost all of his work has come exclusively late in preseason action. That’s telling, and it suggests he might be relegated to the practice squad (if another team doesn’t claim him) unless Shanahan opts to give the rookie some first- or second-string snaps versus Houston.
If so, expect Mason’s stock to rise.