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Projecting 49ers' 53-man roster as regular season nears

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Trey Lance, Jimmy Garoppolo

Only a couple of practices and one more exhibition game remains until the 49ers must make their initial roster cuts to the regular-season limit.

Even after general manager John Lynch and coach Kyle Shanahan trim the roster to 53 players, the 49ers will not be finished. The bottom portion of an NFL team’s roster is constantly shifting and adjusting.

But, first things first, the 49ers have to make some difficult choices. Many of their decisions will be part of their plan to fill the 16-man practice squad with players whom they can trust to call upon when needed.

Here is our last scheduled roster projection before the team trims its active roster to 53 players:

Quarterback

Making the cut (3): Jimmy Garoppolo, Trey Lance, Nate Sudfeld

Still in the picture: None

It is not a certainty the 49ers will keep three quarterbacks, but Shanahan did say he believes he could put together a plan in order to win games with all three quarterbacks, Sudfeld included. Shanahan has yet to officially name his starting quarterback. The expected move is that he’ll go with Garoppolo. But if he makes the surprise call to go with Lance, that would open up another set of questions. Would the 49ers devote $25.5 million this season to a backup? That seems unlikely for a team that is going to want to save money at every turn in order to pay for players down the road.

 

Running back

Making the cut (5): Raheem Mostert, Trey Sermon, Kyle Juszczyk (FB), Elijah Mitchell, JaMycal Hasty

Still in the picture: Wayne Gallman Jr., Josh Hokit (FB)

PUP list: Jeff Wilson Jr.

It is going to come down to Hasty or Gallman for the fourth and final spot among the halfbacks. It could go either way. Neither adds a whole lot of value on special teams. The last time we did this exercise, we went with Gallman, who is more of an every-down back who could step into a prominent role, if needed.

Wide receiver

Making the cut (6): Deebo Samuel, Brandon Aiyuk, Trent Sherfield, Mohamed Sanu, Richie James, Jauan Jennings

Still in the picture: Travis Benjamin, Jalen Hurd, Nsimba Webster

Benjamin, Hurd and Webster enter the final week before cuts with each holding a legitimate shot at winning a roster spot. Those three, along with James and Jennings, are squarely on the roster bubble. James has not had the best of camps, but he helped his cause with a 32-yard punt return on Sunday. Benjamin is coming on strong, and Shanahan loves his speed. Hurd is scheduled to get back on the field this week after being sidelined with tendinitis in his knee. The onus is on him to show that he is engaged and can stay on the field without getting injured. It seems likely that Benjamin and Webster would not get picked up if they get cut. Therefore, if the 49ers deliver bad news to them, there is still a chance both could come back at some point.

Tight end

Making the cut (3): George Kittle, Ross Dwelley, Charlie Woerner

Still in the picture: MyCole Pruitt, Jordan Matthews

The 49ers have kept four tight ends in the past. Pruitt would add a blocking element they don’t currently have with either of the tight ends behind Kittle. If they cut Pruitt, he’s probably not going anywhere. Therefore, they can sign him to the practice squad and reserve the right to bump him up for games.

Offensive line

Making the cut (9): Trent Williams, Laken Tomlinson, Alex Mack, Mike McGlinchey, Daniel Brunskill, Colton McKivitz, Jaylon Moore, Jake Brendel,  Aaron Banks

Still in the picture: Tom Compton, Shon Coleman, Dakota Shepley, Senio Kelemete, Isaiah Williams, Alfredo Gutierrez

Injured reserve: Justin Skule

Moore has been one of the surprises of camp, and he has appeared to play himself into the role of the swing tackle. McKivitz likely is going to be another backup on game days. The third backup lineman looks like it could come down to Brendel or Compton. If Brendel is the choice he would serve as the backup center. That could be a key because the 49ers would not have to move Brunskill out of right guard if a replacement for Mack is needed. Banks, for now, is likely to be one of the team’s inactive players to open the season.

RELATED: Grading rookie QBs through two preseason games

 

Defensive line

Making the cut (10): Nick Bosa, Arik Armstead, Javon Kinlaw, Samson Ebukam, D.J. Jones, Dee Ford, Arden Key, Kevin Givens, Kentavius Street, Zach Kerr

 

Still in the picture: Maurice Hurst, Darrion Daniels, Alex Barrett, Eddie Yarbrough

Suspended list: Jordan Willis

The 49ers are so deep along the defensive line they undoubtedly would be willing to part with someone in a trade. Hurst could be on the outside looking in, at least initially, because of a high-ankle sprain that could keep him sidelined for the first several games of the season. The 49ers could keep him on their 53-man roster next week, then place him on injured reserve.

Linebacker

Making the cut (5): Fred Warner, Dre Greenlaw, Azeez Al-Shaair, Marcell Harris, Demetrius Flannigan-Fowles

Still in the picture: Jonas Griffith, Justin Hilliard, Elijah Sullivan

Injured reserve: Mychal Kendricks

The competition for the final couple spots is not clear-cut. Griffith, Hilliard and Sullivan are fighting hard for spots. The most likely scenario is that the 49ers go with five linebackers with the intent of bringing back at least two of the young linebackers to the practice squad. There will be at least one linebacker who does not make the initial 53 who will see special-teams action early in the season.

Defensive back

Making the cut (9): Emmanuel Moseley, Jason Verrett, Jimmie Ward, K’Waun Williams, Tavon Wilson, Deommodore Lenoir, Ambry Thomas, Talanoa Hufanga, Jared Mayden

Still in the picture: Dontae Johnson, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Kai Nacua, Alexander Myres

PUP list: Jaquiski Tartt, Tarvarius Moore

Injured reserve: Tony Jefferson

Lenoir showed this summer that he is ready to play. Right now, he clearly is the team’s third-best cornerback. Thomas will have a spot on the 53-man roster, but he is not anywhere ready for regular-season action. He appeared unsure of himself. He did way too much grabbing and holding in practices and games. Johnson is ahead of Thomas, but the 49ers should be able to keep him around on the practice squad. Clinton-Dix made a strong bid in a short period of time, but there’s really not a spot on the 53-man roster for him if he does not beat out Wilson and Hufanga for the starting job.

Special teams

Making the cut (3): Robbie Gould, Mitch Wishnowsky, Taybor Pepper

Still in the picture: None

Gould, Wishnowsky and Pepper ran unopposed for their jobs. None was challenged this summer, which might explain why their operations did not appear sharp during the preseason.