49ers Defensive Lineman (11)
EDGE Nick Bosa
DT Javon Hargrave
DT Arik Armstead
EDGE Drake Jackson
DT Javon Kinlaw
DT T.Y McGill
DT Kevin Givens
EDGE Robert Beal
EDGE Clelin Ferrell
DT Kalia Davis
EDGE Taco Charlton
It's a broken record, but the starters here seem fairly well set, particularly the trio of Bosa, Hargrave, and Armstead, although the question of who lines up opposite the reigning Defensive Player of the Year remains to be seen. It's likely a fluid situation anyway.
Locks to make the roster beyond those three would be Javon Kinlaw, who is impressing so far in training camp; Drake Jackson, who probably has the first crack at being the main EDGE rusher opposite Bosa; and T.Y McGill and Kevin Givens, two inside guys who have shown themselves to be valuable rotational pieces in the past.
After that come question marks.
Rookie Robert Beal is already making noise in camp and should make the roster as a situational pass rusher, especially because getting him to pass through waivers to get him on the practice squad seems unlikely.
Then there's 2022 draft pick Kalia Davis who essentially redshirted last year after a late-season ACL tear at UFC but will probably make this team as another late-round interior depth guy.
It makes sense for the 49ers to add EDGE depth from there and it could come in the form of several reclamation projects the team currently has on the roster, namely Clelin Ferrell, Austin Bryant, and newly-signed Taco Charlton, two first-round busts (Ferrell and Charlton) and a mid-round pick that never put everything together.
Those two spots are currently penciled in for Ferrell and Charlton due to pedigree, but Bryant, or even a guy like Kerry Hyder, could step in and take the spot from either one.
49ers Linebackers (4)
LB Fred Warner
LB Dre Greenlaw
LB Oren Burks
LB Dee Winters
Stop me if you've heard this one: the 49ers main starters for this position group are as cemented as any they have on the roster. Those two, of course, are former All-Pro Fred Warner and Dre Greenlaw, who, if healthy, will be on the field for essentially every 49ers' defensive snap this season.
Two questions arise from there.
First, who takes over for now-Titans linebacker Azeez Al-Shaair as the third linebacker in base downs?
Oren Burks stepped in when called upon last season, but he was signed to lead the special teams unit and I'm sure the 49ers wouldn't mind if someone else stepped up in his place, namely rookie Dee Winters who is being described as a similar player to Greenlaw, a former mid-round draft pick who has made himself a top-notch NFL player.
Both of those players should make the roster, but that leads to the second question: will they keep a fifth linebacker and, if so, who will it be?
While there are plenty of options, including 2023 7th-round draft pick Jalen Graham, and veterans like Demetrius Flannigan-Fowles and Curtis Robinson, the name that keeps coming to me over and over is Marcelino McCrary-Ball, a converted safety who has the ball skills to play as a third linebacker when called upon but should also make for a menace on special teams.
Unfortunatley, there may not be room on this talented roster, although watch for the 49ers to keep at least two linebackers like McCrary-Ball on the practice squad.
49ers Cornerbacks (5)
CB Charvarious Ward
CB Deommodore Lenoir
CB Isaiah Oliver
CB Darrell Luter, Jr
CB Sam Womack
Another position, another set of locks at starting positions, with Charvarious Ward and Deommodore Lenoir holding down the outside and Isaiah Oliver appearing to be settling in as the 49ers' nickelback.
Depth, as always, is the big question.
The team really likes Darrell Luter, their 2023 5th round pick out of South Alabama, who could prove valuable due to his ability to play both inside and outside cornerback positions. Then there's Sam Womack, who likely becomes the direct backup to Oliver in the slot.
After that, it's a numbers game, and while they may want to keep another guy for depth purposes, in this scenario it doesn't work out. If they do, Ambry Thomas and Qwauntrezz Knight are the first two candidates for a sixth spot.
49ers Safeties (4)
SS Talanoa Hufanga
FS Tashaun Gipson
S Ji'Ayir Brown
S George Odum
Another fairly simple one.
Talanoa Hufanga is entrenched as one starter and Tashaun Gipson is probably only here if he's the starter next to the 2023 All-Pro like he was last season. If he's supplanted by rookie Ji'Ayir Brown out of Penn State, then things get very interesting.
George Odum is pretty well locked in, too, as a key special teamer, but if Brown slides into a starting role, look for former Panther and defensive coordinator Steve Wilkes favorite, Myles Hartsfield to get a shot to make this team.