49ers depth chart: 5 players who could shockingly start in 2023

San Francisco 49ers quarterback Sam Darnold
San Francisco 49ers quarterback Sam Darnold / Michael Zagaris/GettyImages
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The 49ers have a Super Bowl-caliber roster, but there are always the dark-horse players who wind up starting out of nowhere.

Even after some notable losses via NFL free agency, the San Francisco 49ers still possess a Super Bowl-caliber roster that had exceptionally few holes needing to be filled.

As such, the bulk of general manager John Lynch's additions via the 2023 NFL Draft were ancillary, aimed primarily at beefing up the depth chart and finding long-term replacements for players who are still under contract for the next season or two.

However, if there's one thing about head coach Kyle Shanahan, he doesn't particularly care about where a player was drafted or how much money he makes. If said player gives the Niners the best chance at winning, that's who'll play.

Just ask former San Francisco cornerback Richard Sherman. He's the one who revealed that truth a few years back.

At any rate, the bulk of the 49ers' 2023 roster is pretty much in place, at least in terms of starting lineups. Yet there is always room for a surprise or two, and these five players could wind up shocking the red-and-gold world if they end up starting.

Which they could, and let's explain why.

No. 5: 49ers QB Sam Darnold

The Niners want second-year pro Brock Purdy to start at quarterback. By the looks of it, in the wake of offseason elbow surgery, Purdy is on track to be ready by the start of the regular season, too.

However, without diving too deep into the medical side of things, setbacks happen. And that's why San Francisco has opened the door to an offseason competition between fellow signal-callers, Sam Darnold and Trey Lance.

Lance, who was given the starting job a year ago but ultimately lost it because of a season-ending ankle injury in Week 2, split first-team reps with Darnold during offseason workouts. And while neither apparently separated from the other, at least in terms of OTAs and minicamp, the cold possibility of Purdy not being ready to go opens up the door for either Darnold or Lance to be QB1 by Week 1.

As weird as it might seem, if Darnold beats out Lance during training camp, he'd effectively be "the guy" if Purdy isn't quite ready.