Daniel Brunskill

Three key 49ers' position battles to watch when training camp begins

Three key 49ers' position battles to watch when training camp begins

The 49ers’ pre-draft roster has taken shape, and most of the team’s starting jobs appear obvious at this stage.

Things will come into sharper focus at wide receiver with the 49ers’ actions in the first round of the 2020 NFL Draft. The 49ers have selected a wide receiver in 17 consecutive drafts, and San Francisco will undoubtedly extend that streak with one of their top two selections -- Nos. 13 and 31 overall -- or with a trade-back option.

The 49ers have to replace wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders and defensive tackle DeForest Buckner, and they will probably use a combination of players to fill those spots.

But here are three positions that shape up to have good head-to-head competitions in training camp:

Dre Greenlaw vs. Kwon Alexander

Dre Greenlaw went from being a part-time player as the strongside linebacker to an every-down player at weakside linebacker when Kwon Alexander sustained a torn pectoral.

When Alexander came back for the postseason, Greenlaw remained in the every-down role. Now, there figures to be competition between Greenlaw and Alexander to determine which player will remain on the field in nickel situations when one linebacker leaves the field.

Greenlaw proved to be a quick study as a rookie. He made the defensive play of the season last season when he saw what was coming and reacted quickly to stop Seattle Seahawks tight end Jacob Hollister just shy of the end zone on a fourth-down play in Week 17 to clinch homefield advantage throughout the playoffs.

Although Alexander was a big-ticket acquisition last year, Greenlaw earned the right to at least compete for the every-down job based on his performance over the second half of the season.

Emmanuel Moseley vs. Ahkello Witherspoon

Ahkello Witherspoon started the season strong after a disappointing second season. When he missed several games due to a foot injury, Emmanuel Moseley stepped in and held his own.

Then, Witherspoon struggled after returning to the lineup, and Moseley generally played well in the postseason after taking over.

The 49ers could use a pick on a cornerback during the first day or two of the draft. But, as of now, it appears to be Moseley vs. Witherspoon. There is added motivation for Witherspoon, who is entering the final year of his contract before hitting unrestricted free agency.

Moseley would enter camp as the clear favorite, but Witherspoon will have the opportunity to make some noise with a strong training camp.

[RELATEDHow 49ers' free-agent additions fit into 2020 season plan]

Tom Compton vs. Daniel Brunskill

The 49ers released starting right guard Mike Person after agreeing to terms with Tom Compton, who joins his sixth NFL team of the past six seasons. Compton has been a backup throughout his career, but coach Kyle Shanahan obviously sees something in Compton he likes. He coached him in Washington and Atlanta.

Brunskill served a valuable role for the 49ers last season due to his versatility. He started games at right tackle, left tackle and right guard. Brunskill should benefit from a competition, where he can focus on playing just right guard.

Brunskill showed he can step into the lineup and play at a high level. He is 26, and he should continue to improve for a while -- especially if he’s able to concentrate on just one position.

49ers' roster moves guarantee at least one new offensive line starter

49ers' roster moves guarantee at least one new offensive line starter

Although not as jaw-dropping as the change coming to the 49ers’ defensive lineup, the organization made a move on Thursday that guarantees a new starter on offense, too.

Right guard Mike Person started each of the 33 games, including the postseason, in which he appeared the past two seasons for the 49ers. He battled through physical issues to provide the club with a solid player on the interior of the team’s offensive line.

The 49ers released Person on the second day of free agency after agreeing to terms with journeyman offensive lineman Tom Compton on a one-year, $3 million contract, league sources told NBC Sports Bay Area.

The acquisition of Compton in itself does not signal an obvious upgrade for the 49ers. Compton has just 34 NFL starts in eight NFL seasons. The 49ers will be his sixth team in six years.

The tradeoff also does not make the 49ers significantly younger, either. Compton (6-foot-6, 315 pounds) turns 31 in May, while Person (6-4, 305) turns 32 in June.

Compton is not a can't-miss starter. In fact, the move swings the door wide open for Daniel Brunskill (6-5, 300) to enter the starting lineup on a full-time basis. Brunskill emerged last season after spending 2018 on the Atlanta Falcons’ practice squad and the spring of 2019 in the now-defunct Alliance of American Football.

Brunskill stepped in last season to start at right tackle (four games), left tackle (one) and right guard (two). He started the final two games of the regular season in place of Person, who was battling a bothersome neck condition.

“I’ve joked around that Dan Brunskill is our MVP,” 49ers offensive line coach John Benton said during the week at the Super Bowl. “He’s started at three different positions and we really didn’t miss a beat.”

Brunskill played 475 snaps last season and, according to Pro Football Focus, allowed just two sacks, no quarterback hits and seven hurries.

Person allowed 35 total quarterbacks pressures in 1,146 regular-season snaps – one sack, five hits and 29 hurries. Compton, meanwhile, played 363 snaps with the New York Jets and allowed three sacks, one hit and 13 hurries. He went on injured reserve for the final game of the season with a calf injury.

The addition of Compton can be seen along the same lines as the re-signings of interior lineman Ben Garland and tackle Shon Coleman. It provides the 49ers with insurance on the offensive line.

There continue to be some lingering questions about left tackle Joe Staley’s future, though general manager John Lynch said recently he is confident Staley will return for at least another season.

The 49ers picked up a first-round draft pick from the Indianapolis Colts in exchange for defensive tackle DeForest Buckner.

[RELATEDMcKinnon's new contract saves 49ers more than $5M on salary cap]

The trade of Buckner, which coincided with the club's lucrative contract agreement with Arik Armstead, gives the 49ers some flexibility to address multiple positions in the draft.

The 49ers could trade back from either (or both) of their scheduled first-round picks at Nos. 13 and 31 to land starters – or soon-to-be starters – at wide receiver, cornerback or offensive line.

Source: Tom Compton agrees to contract with 49ers, replacing Mike Person

Source: Tom Compton agrees to contract with 49ers, replacing Mike Person

The 49ers on Thursday agreed to terms with former New York Jets guard Tom Compton on a one-year contract, a league source told NBC Sports Bay Area.

Compton, 30, is an eight-year NFL veteran. He appeared in 14 games last season with the Jets, starting four games at guard.

He appeared in 88 games with 34 starts throughout his career with Washington, Chicago, Atlanta, Minnesota and the Jets.

Compton (6-foot-6, 315 pounds) appeared in 16 games with the Atlanta Falcons in 2016 with Kyle Shanahan as the team’s offensive coordinator. He did not start any games that season.

He broke into the NFL with Washington, where he spent two seasons with Shanahan as offensive coordinator. Compton was Washington's sixth-round draft pick (No. 193 overall) under head coach Mike Shanahan.

The contract agreement comes as the 49ers reportedly informed veteran guard Mike Person of his release. Adam Schefter of ESPN reported Person’s release on Thursday.

[RELATED: DeFo believes Colts can replicate success of 49ers' defense]

Person started 33 games the past two seasons, including the postseason, with the 49ers. He missed two games late in the season with a neck condition.

Compton likely will compete with Daniel Brunskill for the starting job at right guard to replace Person, who was scheduled to make $2.5 million this season in salary and bonuses.