A new era. A new culture. A new identity. The new look San Francisco 49ers have a new regime in place and it’s led by HC Chip Kelly. Known for his offensive genius, Kelly will be the man responsible for turning around a storied franchise that has been one of the NFL’s laughingstocks since HC Jim Harbaugh bolted to Michigan.
However, it won’t come easy. 49ers GM Trent Baalke and Kelly have to see eye-to-eye on ‘football matters’ on who stays and who goes. Obviously, Baalke has final say, but as the team’s head coach – Kelly gets full-reign over his chosen 22 starters.
So who is on the ‘bubble’ and who is a ‘lock?’ These are questions many Forever Faithful have been asking me.
So without further ado, here is my take as I provide my two cents in predicting the team’s 53-man roster:
2014: 44/53 = 84%
2015: 49/53 = 92%
The following players do NOT count against the 53-man roster and are still on team.
NFI- Non-Football Injury/illness (player does NOT count against 53-man roster until active)
- NT Ian Williams
IR- Injured Reserve (does NOT count against 53-man active roster)
- QB Thad Lewis
- WR Bruce Ellington
- WR Eric Rogers
- OLB Aaron Lynch
Locks (2): QB Blaine Gabbert, QB Colin Kaepernick
Analysis: The 49ers stick with at least two quarterbacks to start the season. The uncertain future of Kaepernick is a cause for concern, but unless a “surprise cut” becomes available- what choice do the 49ers have then to declare Kap as the team’s primary backup?
Locks (4): RB Carlos Hyde, RB Shaun Draughn, RB DuJuan Harris and RB Mike Davis
Analysis: Hyde is clearly Kelly’s workhorse. I’ve been saying since Day 1 that Draughn will be the No. 2 and OC Curtis Modkins echoed that recently. Harris and Davis are too good to leave off the roster as both run hard between the tackles while having the lateral quickness to evade tacklers in space.
All this being said, it appears that rookie RB Kelvin Taylor is the odd-man out, but should return as one of the team’s practice squad players should he clear waivers.
Locks (4): TE Vance McDonald, TE Blake Bell, TE Bruce Miller, TE Garrett Celek
Analysis: The team appears set at the tight-end position in my honest opinion. The wild-card here is Miller. He has consistently been praised as a “football” player but where does he fit in? If Kelly is truly taking into account versatility then Miller should easily make the team as his special-teams presence makes him too good a value to pass up.
Locks (6): WR Torrey Smith, WR Quinton Patton, WR DeAndrew White, WR Jeremy Kerley, WR Dres Anderson, and WR Aaron Burbridge
Locks (3): T Joe Staley, T Trent Brown, and T John Theus
Analysis: There is no question that the 49ers will keep behemoth offensive tackle T Trent Brown. At 6-8, 355, Brown is easily the biggest player on the team while showing quick feet for a tackle of his size. In fact, he will be starting Week 1, at least that’s my prediction.
Locks (4): RG Anthony Davis, LG Zane Beadles, G Joshua Garnett, G Andrew Tiller
Analysis: This unit is arguably the team’s strongest link on the offensive side of the ball. Hard to imagine considering the team had to play musical chairs on the inside, the additions of both Beadles and Garnett have quickly turned around a weakness into a strength.
Locks (2): C Daniel Kilgore, C Marcus Martin
Analysis: I would honestly rather the team roll with OG/C Alex Balducci but it’s hard for me to imagine the team cutting ties with their second third-round pick (Martin) of the off-season.
Locks (5): DE Quinton Dial, DE DeForest Buckner, DE Arik Armstead, DE Ronald Blair, DE Tony Jerod-Eddie
Analysis: The 49ers appear set at the defensive end position for the foreseeable future. D-Fo and Armstead will both be the bookend anchors for years to come. However, the 49ers have a dilemma with oft-injured DE Glenn Dorsey. Do they place him on season-ending injured reserve or do they use the ‘boomerang’ injured reserve designation in hopes he returns at some point during the year? I think the latter is the route they will go in (therefore) Dorsey doesn’t count against 53-man roster.
Locks (2): NT Mike Purcell, NT Garrison Smith
Analysis: Purcell will get his opportunity to start in the team’s base package. A player who made a name for himself during last year’s preseason, Purcell will look to tackle on a bigger role in 2016. The 49ers still need a backup in case Purcell goes down to injury which makes Smith a likely candidate here.
The team could also kick Dial inside to nose tackle, but it appears DLC Jerry Azzinaro wants Dial as one of his anchors setting the edge in run-support.
Locks (4): OLB Ahmad Brooks, OLB Eli Harold, OLB Tank Carradine, OLB Marcus Rush
Analysis: With Lynch’s four-game suspension looming, that clears the way for Rush to make the roster. One of the team’s best pass-rushers during the preseason, I believe Rush will make the team simply because of his versatility on special-teams. The same can’t be said of Lemonier, who adds little value from both a pass-rushing standpoint and special-teams presence.
Locks (4): ILB NaVorro Bowman, ILB Gerald Hodges, ILB Ray-Ray Armstrong, and ILB Nick Bellore
Locks (6): CB Jimmie Ward, CB Tramaine Brock, CB Chris Davis, CB Will Redmond, CB Dontae Johnson, and CB Rashard Robinson.
Analysis: The team has been adamant in fielding the best 11 players, prompting them to start Ward at cornerback. The surprise here is Davis, who has shown to be the team’s best nickel cornerback throughout the preseason.
Locks (2): FS Eric Reid, FS Marcus Cromartie
Locks (2): SS Antoine Bethea, and SS Jaquiski Tartt
Analysis: The team appears set here. No analysis needed.
Locks (3): K Phil Dawson, P Bradley Pinion, LS Kyle Nelson