2018 San Francisco 49ers starters, 53-man roster, schedule prediction

Richard Sherman, seen here during San Francisco's offseason program, says his Achilles is now back to "100 percent." Stan Szeto/USA TODAY Sports

The San Francisco 49ers roster heading into the 2018 season (projected starters in bold).

QUARTERBACK (2): Jimmy Garoppolo, C.J. Beathard

Assuming good health, there was never a question of how this would look. Garoppolo’s teammates call him “Franchise,” and he’s now faced with the task of living up to all those expectations. Beathard remains as the backup.

RUNNING BACK (3): Matt Breida, Alfred Morris, Raheem Mostert

The Niners gave Jerick McKinnon a big contract in the offseason with the idea of making him one of their offensive focal points. But he suffered a torn right ACL in a practice Saturday and will miss the rest of the season. That leaves Breida and Morris to handle the majority of the running back work, with the Niners likely splitting those reps based on matchups and situations. Mostert is there for depth and special teams. It also wouldn't be a surprise if the Niners add another back to the roster when they put McKinnon on injured reserve.

FULLBACK (1): Kyle Juszczyk

A key piece to coach Kyle Shanahan’s offense, Juszczyk won’t lack for playing time, serving as a lead blocker in the run game and a safety valve capable of the occasional big play in the passing game.

WIDE RECEIVER (6): Pierre Garcon, Marquise Goodwin, Dante Pettis, Trent Taylor, Kendrick Bourne, Richie James Jr. (Note: Victor Bolden Jr. is suspended the first four games of the season and does not count against the roster)

The Niners didn’t lack for competition at this spot, though the first four on the list were pretty much always locked in. Garcon and Goodwin will start on the outside with Taylor as the primary slot option and Pettis providing the versatility to step in to any spot and return punts. Bourne and James offer upside and depth, but their game day usage will likely come down to ability to contribute on special teams.

TIGHT END (3): George Kittle, Garrett Celek, Cole Wick

Kittle looked poised for a breakout season before a shoulder injury in the preseason opener. He’s on track to return for Week 1 and play a prominent role in the offense. Celek is a solid, reliable type who is the best blocker in this group. Wick beat out Cole Hikutini for the final spot and can help as a blocker and pass-catcher.

OFFENSIVE LINE (10): Joe Staley, Laken Tomlinson, Weston Richburg, Mike Person, Mike McGlinchey, Garry Gilliam, Erik Magnuson, Shon Coleman, Joshua Garnett, Matt Tobin

No position group on the team got the makeover this one did in the offseason, as new additions Richburg, Person and McGlinchey join Staley and Tomlinson. Staley remains the bedrock of the line with much expected of high-priced free agent Richburg and McGlinchey, the No. 9 overall draft pick. Magnuson was initially a candidate for injured reserve because of a hamstring injury but might be healthy sooner than later. Garnett is pushing for the starting job at right guard after Person staked his claim. But Person could make a solid backup at multiple spots, while Garnett is strictly a guard. Coleman came over in a trade to offer tackle insurance while Gilliam recovers from a concussion.

DEFENSIVE LINE (9): DeForest Buckner, Solomon Thomas, Arik Armstead, Earl Mitchell, Cassius Marsh, Ronald Blair III, Sheldon Day, D.J. Jones, Jullian Taylor

The Niners are hoping their three first-round picks -- Buckner, Thomas and Armstead -- all take a big step forward this season. That would mean Buckner jumps to an All-Pro level, Thomas adds more pass-rush punch and Armstead stays healthy and produces all season. Mitchell is the steady veteran run-stuffer. Day, Jones, Blair and Taylor offer intriguing depth and upside while many eyes will focus on Marsh, who will be asked to offer much-needed edge rush help.

LINEBACKER (6): Malcolm Smith, Mark Nzeocha, Fred Warner, Brock Coyle, Dekoda Watson, Elijah Lee (Note: Reuben Foster is suspended the first two games of the season and doesn’t count against the roster)

Foster will step back into the starting lineup the moment his suspension ends, but the most likely setup for the first two games has Warner starting alongside Smith with Coyle and Less as backups. Nzeocha landed a roster spot and could start at SAM with Watson as his backup, though that position doesn’t often get many snaps in a given week.

SECONDARY (10): Richard Sherman, Ahkello Witherspoon, Adrian Colbert, Jaquiski Tartt, Jimmie Ward, K'Waun Williams, D.J. Reed, Tarvarius Moore, Greg Mabin, Antone Exum Jr.

Question marks abound here as Sherman returns from an Achilles injury, Witherspoon and Colbert enter their first full season as starters and Tartt is also returning from injury while also settling into a starting role. There’s plenty of upside in that group, but the Niners need it to coalesce quickly. Williams is a solid nickel corner and Ward offers depth at corner, free safety and in the slot when he’s healthy, which has been a struggle in his career. Reed and Moore are promising rookies with potential, while Mabin provides depth at corner.

SPECIALIST (3): K Robbie Gould, P Bradley Pinion, LS Kyle Nelson

This trio had instant chemistry in its first season together in 2017 and another year together should only strengthen that.