Most intriguing position battles for San Francisco 49ers in 2024

San Francisco 49ers wide receivers Deebo Samuel (L) and Brandon Aiyuk (R)
San Francisco 49ers wide receivers Deebo Samuel (L) and Brandon Aiyuk (R) / Michael Zagaris/GettyImages
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No. 5: Safety

Players to watch: Talanoa Hufanga, Malik Mustapha, George Odum

Second-year safety Ji'Ayir Brown did more than enough his rookie season to command a starting job, which means he'll likely be out there as a Week 1 starter when the regular season begins.

But, the opposite safety job appears much more up for grabs than it seems on paper.

All-Pro strong safety Talanoa Hufanga is coming back from a torn ACL suffered last season, and the San Francisco Chronicle's Mike Silver reported earlier that the former USC product isn't guaranteed to get his starting job back.

Adding defensive back Malik Mustapha via the draft didn't help Hufanga's prospects for returning in that capacity either.

It's also possible the 49ers tabbed Mustapha as a long-term replacement for Hufanga anyway, considering the latter is a free agent in 2025, and the Niners will have salary-cap challenges that'll make re-signing or extending him difficult.

That said, Hufanga still has to show he's now at 100 percent after his injury and rehabilitation, while Mustapha will need to carve out his role.

Otherwise, a veteran like George Odum could find himself being more than just a special teams ace.

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