Niners' 53-man roster projection features new faces at almost every position

Veterans Brian Hoyer (left) and Matt Barkley will be competing with rookie C.J. Beathard at quarterback. AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez

The San Francisco 49ers open training camp on July 28 at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif.

Here's an early 53-man roster projection as camp opens:


Quarterbacks (3): Brian Hoyer, Matt Barkley, C.J. Beathard

The Niners completely renovated the quarterbacks room this offseason as Hoyer and Barkley came from Chicago via free agency and Beathard arrived as a third-round pick out of Iowa. There could be some juggling in the order of these three as the season goes along, but there's not much of a competition to watch in terms of which quarterbacks will make the roster. Beathard's relatively lofty draft position likely ensures the 49ers keep three signal callers.

Running backs (5): Carlos Hyde, Tim Hightower, Joe Williams, Kapri Bibbs, Kyle Juszczyk

The 49ers made improving the depth behind Hyde a priority and came away from the offseason with Hightower, Williams and Bibbs to provide it. Hightower is the steady, veteran presence who can be trusted on third downs. Williams is the exciting youngster with starter upside and Bibbs should provide some special-teams ability in addition to chipping in on third down on occasion. Juszczyk is the highest-paid fullback in the league but the Niners will use him in a variety of ways. Keep an eye on undrafted rookie Matt Breida, who could push for a spot -- especially if he can return kicks.

Wide receivers (5): Pierre Garcon, Marquise Goodwin, Jeremy Kerley, Aldrick Robinson, Trent Taylor

These five appear to be pretty well set, though their playing time and order on a depth chart could be juggled during the preseason. The question is whether the Niners carry a sixth receiver. If they do want a sixth, there should be quite a competition for that spot. DeAndre Smelter brings a needed size element that the others don't, but Aaron Burbridge and DeAndre Carter could also force their way into the conversation. Undrafted rookie Victor Bolden Jr. also had some impressive moments in the spring and could be a factor.

Tight ends (3): Logan Paulsen, George Kittle, Cole Hikutini

This might be one of the most difficult groups to project. Vance McDonald is the incumbent starter and just signed a lucrative contract extension at the end of last season, but the Niners openly made him available in trade during the draft. McDonald's fit in Shanahan's offense is up for debate, and though it would mean a cap hit to part ways with him, the 49ers have plenty of space to absorb if necessary. Other returning tight ends like Garrett Celek are a bit redundant with Paulsen, whom Shanahan brought from Washington to serve as a primary blocker at the position. Kittle can do a little bit of everything and Hikutini has the makings of a "move" tight end with upside that Shanahan seeks. And don't forget: Juszczyk can also be used here.

Offensive linemen (8): Joe Staley, Trent Brown, Joshua Garnett, Zane Beadles, Jeremy Zuttah, Daniel Kilgore, Garry Gilliam, Brandon Fusco

The 49ers ignored the offensive line in the draft and spent some time and money looking for offensive-line depth during the offseason. They acquired Zuttah in a trade with Baltimore and signed Gilliam as a restricted free agent from Seattle. Both could push for starting spots. Fusco was another late addition to provide depth. Players like Zuttah and Beadles offer versatility that could allow the Niners to go with just eight linemen. It's possible a young lineman could earn a roster spot, but he'll have to impress to do so.


Defensive linemen (9): DeForest Buckner, Arik Armstead, Solomon Thomas, Earl Mitchell, Aaron Lynch, D.J. Jones, Elvis Dumervil, Tank Carradine, Chris Jones

The Niners again poured serious resources into this position group, signing Mitchell as a free agent and using the No. 3 overall pick to bring Thomas aboard. The interesting one to watch here could be Lynch, who has alternately intrigued and disappointed in the past. If Lynch arrives to camp in shape, he should get opportunities as a "Leo" pass rusher, but if not, he could be nudged aside as Dumervil and Armstead handle that role. Ronald Blair and Quinton Dial should also be factors.

Linebackers (7): NaVorro Bowman, Reuben Foster, Ahmad Brooks, Malcolm Smith, Eli Harold, Dekoda Watson, Brock Coyle

The first four in this group should be the three starters and the primary backup, leaving room for others to win the final three spots. Special teams will undoubtedly be a consideration in that conversation, which means players like Coyle and Watson will have to battle guys like Ray-Ray Armstrong for spots. We'll give the edge to Coyle and Watson, both of whom were brought in by the current regime. Harold and Pita Taumoepenu are a bit redundant as potential SAM linebackers with pass-rush ability, leaving a choice between experience and a rookie. Harold showed more in the spring and Taumoepenu can probably land on the practice squad unless he has a big preseason.

Cornerback (6): Rashard Robinson, Keith Reaser, Dontae Johnson, Ahkello Witherspoon, Will Redmond, K'Waun Williams

Perhaps the most unproven and thinnest position group on the team, the Niners have a lot to sort through here after parting ways with Tramaine Brock and moving Jimmie Ward to free safety. Reaser, Johnson and Witherspoon figure to battle for the starting spot opposite Robinson. Redmond and Williams are the top candidates to handle the nickel job. The Niners could choose to keep fewer corners knowing that Ward could move in to the slot on third down, but otherwise there probably won't be much drama here.

Safety (4): Eric Reid, Jimmie Ward, Jaquiski Tartt, Adrian Colbert

Reid and Tartt are basically locks to handle the strong safety spot and the same is true of Ward as the free safety. Colbert played cornerback during the spring but we'll make a projection here that he gets an opportunity to move to safety or at least have the versatility to do both. For him to win a roster spot, he could have to overcome undrafted free agent Lorenzo Jerome, who has a knack for making plays. Colbert looks like a potential difference maker on special teams, which could give him an edge. Don Jones and Vinnie Sunseri could also be in the mix.


Kicker (1): Robbie Gould

Punter (1): Bradley Pinion

Long snapper (1): Kyle Nelson

Not much mystery here.