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Maiocco projects 49ers' 53-man roster after NFL draft

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The 49ers fortified their depth chart during free agency.

General manager John Lynch and the personnel department filled holes, leaving few positions thin on proven players.

Only one or two starting jobs were even remotely available for the incoming rookies at the time the 2021 NFL Draft rolled around last week.

Spots on the 53-man roster were in short supply for the incoming class of players, which is why the 49ers’ strategy was to select only players who had strong chances to make the team -- even if it meant the position, such as running back, already appeared well-stocked.

In the end, the 49ers might have succeeded in adding eight rookies who stand strong chances of knocking incumbents from the team.

Here is an initial post-draft projection of the 49ers’ 2021 roster:

Quarterback

Making the cut: Jimmy Garoppolo, Trey Lance, Nate Sudfeld

On 90-man roster: Josh Rosen, Josh Johnson

Follow the money. The 49ers awarded Sudfeld a $200,000 guarantee in order to sign him to a one-year contract. There is no guaranteed money for Rosen or Johnson. Rosen, of course, has a chance to unseat Sudfeld for the No. 3 job — just as Lance, the No. 3 overall draft pick, has an opportunity to take over the top spot from Garoppolo.

Running back

Making the cut: Trey Sermon, FB Kyle Juszczyk, Raheem Mostert, Jeff Wilson Jr., Elijah Mitchell

On 90-man roster: Wayne Gallman Jr., JaMycal Hasty, Austin Walter, FB Josh Hokit

 

Gallman was the New York Giants’ leading rusher last season. But after draft weekend, he faces a battle just to make the 49ers’ regular-season roster this season. The 49ers did not plan on selecting two running backs. But they traded up for Sermon in the third round. Then, in the sixth round, they could not pass up the pass-catching and play-making that Mitchell brings to the table. This could be a position at which the 49ers will look for trade scenarios if other teams encounter injuries during training camp.

Wide receiver

Making the cut: Deebo Samuel, Brandon Aiyuk, Richie James, Trent Sherfield, Jalen Hurd, Travis Benjamin

On 90-man roster: Mohamed Sanu, River Cracraft, Kevin White, Jauan Jennings, Austin Proehl, Austin Watkins Jr.

Coach Kyle Shanahan downplayed the 49ers’ need at wide receiver last week. The 49ers' streak of drafting a wide receiver for 18 consecutive years came to an end. In the later rounds, Shanahan said it would have been difficult for any draft pick to make the roster because the 49ers already had six or more NFL-caliber wide receivers. Watkins, an undrafted rookie from UAB, has a chance. But it figures to be difficult for anyone to crack the top six — as long as those ticketed for roster spots remain healthy.

Tight end

Making the cut: George Kittle, Ross Dwelley, Charlie Woerner

On 90-man roster: Daniel Helm, Josh Pederson

The 49ers kept four tight ends on their regular-season roster during each of the past two seasons. That seems like overkill this season, as other positions have more talent. Helm is worth keeping around on the practice squad with the knowledge that he can step in at any point if the team needs more depth.

Offensive line

Making the cut: Trent Williams, Laken Tomlinson, Alex Mack, Aaron Banks, Mike McGlinchey, Daniel Brunskill, Colton McKivitz, Jaylon Moore, Justin Skule

On 90-man roster: Weston Richburg, Tom Compton, Shon Coleman, Jake Brendel, Corbin Kaufusi, Dakoda Shepley, Isaiah Williams, Alfred Gutierrez

Richburg experienced an unfortunate series of injuries and bad luck since signing with the 49ers in 2018. It appears likely his career is over. Mack steps in as a free agent to take over as the 49ers’ starting center. The starting lineup is set, as long as Banks lives up to expectations at right guard as a second-round draft pick. Brunskill, McKivitz and Moore are on solid footing for backup jobs. Skule will have to hold off Coleman and Compton for a roster spot.

Defensive line

Making the cut: Nick Bosa, Arik Armstead, Javon Kinlaw, Samson Ebukam, D.J. Jones, Maurice Hurst, Jordan Willis, Arden Key, Zach Kerr

On 90-man roster: Dee Ford, Kevin Givens, Kentavius Street, Darrion Daniels Alex Barrett, Daeshon Hall

This is one position where the 49ers could opt to keep an extra player because of the depth. Ford missed the final 15 games of last season with a back condition. His status is uncertain. Givens is facing a criminal charge of second-degree assault in Baltimore. He is scheduled for trial later this month. If Ford is healthy and Givens gets cleared, both players should be on the team. But, right now, there are too many questions about each individual to project them being on the roster this season. Street and Daniels will provide strong competition for Willis, Key and Kerr.

 

Linebacker

Making the cut: Fred Warner, Dre Greenlaw, Azeez Al-Shaair, Demetrius Flannigan-Fowles, Nathan Gerry

On 90-man roster: Jonas Griffith, Justin Hilliard, Elijah Sullivan

Gerry started 19 games of the 23 games in which he appeared for the Philadelphia Eagles the past two seasons. That final spot will be claimed by the player who proves he can make the bigger contributions as a backup linebacker and on all the special-teams units.

RELATED: Why York gains confidence watching Shanahan, Lynch work

 

Defensive back

Making the cut: Jimmie Ward, Emmanuel Moseley, Jason Verrett, K’Waun Williams, Jaquiski Tartt, Ambry Thomas, Tarvarius Moore, Dontae Johnson, Deommodore Lenoir, Talanoa Hufanga

On 90-man roster: Marcell Harris, Tavon Wilson, Tim Harris Jr., Ken Webster, Jared Mayden, Kai Nacua, Brian Boddy-Calhoun, Mark Fields II

It is a certainty that some of the players who do not make the initial cut will find their ways on the active roster and be asked to contribute during the season. There are always a lot of moving parts in the defensive backfield. Lenoir and Hufanga were fifth-round draft picks who were added to fill specific roles. Lenoir is Williams’ understudy at the nickel back position, and Hufanga is a hard-hitting, aggressive safety — out of the John Lynch mold — who should make his mark immediately on special teams. Also, veteran Richard Sherman remains available as a free agent. Do not rule out his possible return on a one-year contract.

Special teams

Making the cut: Robbie Gould, Mitch Wishnowsky, Taybor Pepper

On 90-man roster: None

Gould, Wishnowsky and Pepper are each signed through the 2022 season, so barring something completely unexpected this will be the special-teams lineup at kicker, punter and long-snapper for the next two seasons.

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