San Francisco 49ers depth chart: Plenty to sort out on defense

With Reuben Foster's legal situation, the middle linebacker position could become a major area of concern for the 49ers. Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports

With free agency and the draft completed, and OTAs and minicamps scheduled for the next month and a half, here’s a closer look at the depth chart for the San Francisco 49ers (starters in bold):


Quarterback (3): Jimmy Garoppolo, C.J. Beathard, Nick Mullens

No mystery here. This is Garoppolo's offense and, really, his team.

Running back (5): Jerick McKinnon, Matt Breida, Raheem Mostert, Joe Williams, Jeremy McNichols

The Niners spent big money on McKinnon to make him the featured back and Breida looks poised to continue as the backup. In his second year, Williams will be fighting for a roster spot.

Fullback (2): Kyle Juszczyk, Malcolm Johnson

Juszczyk came on strong after Garoppolo took over and should be a bigger factor in the offense next season.

Wide receiver 1 (4): Pierre Garcon, Kendrick Bourne, Aaron Burbridge, Max McCaffrey

Garcon returns from a neck injury and should establish himself as Garoppolo's favorite intermediate target.

Wide receiver 2 (4): Marquise Goodwin, Aldrick Robinson, Victor Bolden Jr., Richie James

Coming off his best season, Goodwin figures to continue to be one of Garoppolo's top options. Robinson will have plenty of competition for a backup job.

Slot receiver (3): Trent Taylor, Dante Pettis, DeAndre Carter

Taylor was solid as a rookie, but Pettis figures to push for playing time.

Tight end (4): George Kittle, Garrett Celek, Cole Hikutini, Cole Wick

Kittle will continue as the primary "move" tight end, with Celek as the in-line option.

Left tackle (3): Joe Staley, Garry Gilliam, Andrew Lauderdale

An energized Staley finished last season strong and will remain Garoppolo's blind-side protector even as he turns 34 in August.

Right tackle (4): Mike McGlinchey, Garry Gilliam, Darrell Williams Jr., Pace Murphy

McGlinchey will have to win the job from Gilliam, but it would be a surprise if he doesn't step in sooner than later with Gilliam serving as the swing tackle.

Left guard (2): Laken Tomlinson, Zane Beadles

Tomlinson is entering the final year of his rookie contract, while the versatile Beadles figures to have to fend off challenges for a roster spot.

Right guard (2): Jonathan Cooper, Joshua Garnett

Cooper is a scheme fit for the Niners' outside zone running game, but Garnett has something to prove after sitting out last season.

Center (2): Weston Richburg, Erik Magnuson

Another big-ticket free-agent addition, Richburg should give the Niners some stability in the middle and step into a leadership role soon. Magnuson can also push for playing time and a backup role at guard.


Right defensive end (3): Solomon Thomas, Cassius Marsh, Jerry Attaochu

The Niners hope Thomas can hold up at the Leo spot on running downs and kick inside to create opportunities for himself, Marsh and Attaochu in passing situations.

Left defensive end (3): Arik Armstead, Ronald Blair III, Kentavius Street

Armstead should be a better fit at the "big" end spot as he returns from injury. Street figures to sit the season out as he recovers from a knee injury.

Defensive tackle (3): DeForest Buckner, Sheldon Day, Jullian Taylor

Buckner is the centerpiece of the defense and will likely lead the line in snaps barring injury.

Nose tackle (2): Earl Mitchell, D.J. Jones

The solid veteran of the group, Mitchell should continue to get plenty of work on early downs stuffing the run.

MLB (4): Reuben Foster, Brock Coyle, Korey Toomer, Mark Nzeocha

Until Foster's legal situation is settled and Coyle recovers from a shoulder injury, there should be snaps for Toomer and Nzeocha this spring.

WLB (3): Malcolm Smith, Elijah Lee, Fred Warner

Smith is back from a pectoral injury and eager to handle the job he was signed for. Warner is an intriguing rookie who could also get a look at middle linebacker.

SLB (3): Eli Harold, Dekoda Watson, Pita Taumoepenu

Harold will also get a look as the Leo, but he is coming off a solid season, particularly as an edge setter against the run. Taumoepenu will need to take a step forward to solidify his spot in Year 2 after spending last season learning from the sideline.

Cornerback (4): Richard Sherman, Jimmie Ward, Tyvis Powell, Tarvarius Moore

The undisputed leader of the secondary, Sherman is coming back from an Achilles injury and won't practice until camp. Ward will get the bulk of the snaps in his stead in the meantime.

Cornerback (3): Ahkello Witherspoon, Greg Mabin, Trovon Reed

Ward could push Witherspoon when Sherman returns, but the Niners were pleased with Witherspoon's rookie performance and he should nail down this spot.

Nickel cornerback (3): K'Waun Williams, Jimmie Ward, D.J. Reed

Again, Ward could be a factor in this battle, but Williams played well in 2017, earning a contract extension in the process.

Free Safety (3): Adrian Colbert, Jimmie Ward, Tarvarius Moore

When the Niners are healthy at corner, there could be a fascinating camp battle between Colbert and Ward for this job. Colbert played well at the end of last season, but the 49ers will need to see more of the same for him to nail down the job permanently.

Strong safety (4): Jaquiski Tartt, Don Jones, Chanceller James, Marcell Harris

After signing a contract extension, it's clear this is Tartt's job moving forward.


Punter (2): Bradley Pinion, Jeff Locke

A potential competition could emerge here as Pinion enters a contract year.

Kicker (1): Robbie Gould

No drama here as Gould comes off a terrific first season with the Niners.

Long-snapper (1): Kyle Nelson

Nelson remains steady as he enters the last year of his rookie deal.

Kick returner (3): Victor Bolden Jr., Raheem Mostert, D.J. Reed

Don't be surprised to see Reed move up quickly and push for this job as he settles in.

Punt returner (3): Pettis, Taylor, Victor Bolden Jr.

Taylor was solid here last year, but Pettis was a record breaker as a punt returner in college. It would be a waste of one of his most dynamic abilities if he didn't win this job.