A look at the 53-man roster for the San Francisco 49ers for 2021. (AP Photo / Tony Avelar)
The San Francisco 49ers announced their first 53-man roster for the 2021 NFL season. As is so often the case, there were a few surprises.
San Francisco opt to keep just two quarterbacks while pitching a whopping 11 defensive linemen.
Things are obviously going to change in the week plus leading up to the regular 49ers season opener. For now, here’s a look at San Francisco’s initial 53-man roster with predictions regarding the team’s training roster.
Quarterback: Jimmy Garoppolo, Trey Lance
The 53-man roster of the San Francisco 49ers, Jimmy Garoppolo. (AP photo / Jed Jacobsohn)
San Francisco chose to keep only two quarterbacks in its 53-man roster. This is a clear indication that the team expects Trey Lance’s finger injury to only keep him away for a week or so. However, there remains a decent chance that Nate Sudfeld will return to the training squad after his waiver on Tuesday. He can add extra insurance to the mix behind Garoppolo and Lance.
Running back: Raheem Mostert, Trey Serman, JaMycal Hasty, Elijah Mitchell
It’s a little surprising that during the final cuts, the 49ers signed the seasoned Free agent who signed Wayne Gallman. He did an excellent job last season replacing the injured Saquon Barkley with the New York Giants. With that in mind, Hasty’s preseason performance led him to almost get on the list. Mitchell, a late round pick last spring, offers more versatility in the return leg.
Defender: Kyle Juszczyk
The 49ers liked what they saw in the first two preseason games without a Juice Check from Josh Hokit. However, there is no room for a second full-back in today’s NFL. The hope here is that Hokit will make it back to San Francisco’s 16-man training team.
Tight End: George Kittle, Ross Dwelley, Charlie Woerner
San Francisco 49ers tight end George Kittle. (AP Photo / Scot Tucker)
San Francisco decided on Tuesday to release the wide receiver that became the tight end Jordan Matthews. There is a chance he will return to the training squad after doing well in this new position over the summer. The decision for three tight ends differs slightly from previous years under Kyle Shanahan. It seems to suggest the 49ers are happy with Dwelley and Woerner as backups for Kittle.
Wide receivers: Brandon Aiyuk, Deebo Samuel, Trent Sherfield, Mohamed Sanu, Jalen Hurd, Jauan Jennings
This was one of the most interesting position groups for San Francisco during training camp and preseason. Sherfield showed great performance and played the role of the 49ers’ most prolific receiver. That guaranteed him a place in the 53-man squad.
As for Jalen Hurd, he lost more time to injury after sitting out each of his first two NFL seasons. After getting a lot of action in the preseason final in San Francisco, Hurd surprisingly earned a spot on the 53rd.
By keeping both Hurd and Jennings, the 49ers are in a less than stellar position in the second leg as well. At the moment, Aiyuk seems to be the best punt returner. Given its status as San Francisco’s No. 1 recipient, this seems unlikely. Be sure this is an area the 49ers will address before the first week against Detroit.
Offensive tackle: Trent Williams, Mike McGlinchey, Jaylon Moore
The 53-member roster of the San Francisco 49ers, Trent Williams. (Photo by Abbie Parr / Getty Images)
Here’s another area the 49ers could address. Colton McKivitz’s surprise release for the fifth round in 2020 changes the momentum a bit. He is replaced by rookie Jaylon Moore in the swing tackle role after he made an impressive impression in the training camp and in the preseason. Moore’s lack of experience could play a role should Williams or McGlinchey miss the time to injury.
Guard: Laken Tomlinson, Daniel Brunskill, Aaron Banks, Tom Compton
Much to the chagrin of Northern California fans, the 49ers chose to keep Compton in their initial 53-man roster. The 32-year-old veteran will mean a major downgrade should either Tomlinson or Brunksill suffer an injury. Meanwhile, Banks missed a ton of time injuring himself over the summer after San Francisco made former Notre Dame All-American a surprise second-round pick.
Unlike other positions, I expect San Francisco to comb through the waiver, free agency, and trading bloc to find another security guard. It cannot go into week 1 with this depth chart.
Middle: Alex Mack
Mack, who signed to the Atlanta Falcons last spring, has only missed two games in the past six seasons. Despite his advanced age of 35, San Francisco is confident that the six-time pro bowler will stay healthy. With that in mind, there’s a good chance that Jake Brendel will either return to the training squad or the active squad after being fired on Tuesday.
Defensive Line: Nick Bosa, Arik Armstead, Javon Kinlaw, Dee Ford, Samson Ebukam, DJ Jones, Kentavius Street, Kevin Givens, Arden Key, Zach Kerr, Maurice Hurst
The San Francisco 49ers’ defense ends on Kentavius Street, left, and Nick Bosa warms up while playing NFL soccer … [+]
Initially, the 49ers will have 11 defensive linemen in their 53-man roster. That will change as soon as Maurice Hurst is placed on the injured reserve with a high ankle sprain. There is also the option of another player being dealt before Week 1 while other teams are calling San Francisco about possible trades.
As it stands, this could be one of the deepest units in the entire NFL. Nick Bosa and Dee Ford appear to be 100% after playing a total of three games last season. Javon Kinlaw showed up in his second preseason with the 49ers. Samson Ebukam appears to be a tremendous EDGE rush threat after coming free-hand from the Los Angeles Rams. Hell, Zach Kerr is a starter-caliber player who takes the field with second and third units. It will be interesting to see how the 49ers’ line of defense evolves forward.
Linebackers: Fred Warner, Dre Greenlaw, Azeez Al-Shaair, Demetrius Flannigan-Fowles, Marcell Harris
The 49ers’ decision to swap Jonas Griffith on Tuesday opened the door to Marcell Harris to earn a spot on the 53-man roster. The former late round choice is making the transition from security and has done well over the summer. Harris also gives San Francisco flexibility with specialty teams.
It all starts, of course, with all-pro Fred Warner and the talented youngster Dre Greenlaw. If they stay healthy and perform well, this will be one of the best linebacker groups in the NFL.
Cornerback: Jason Verrett, Emmanuel Moseley, K’Waun Williams, Deommodore Lenoir, Ambry Thomas, Davontae Harris
San Francisco 49ers Deommodore Lenoir (38) intercepts a pass for Kansas City Chiefs Noah. away … [+]
To say it was surprising that San Francisco chose to keep Harris over Dontae Johnson would be an understatement. The 49ers wanted experience with two rookies playing roles in the cornerback. Even then, we can expect another move in this position before week 1.
Security: Jimmie Ward, Jaquiski Tartt, Talanoa Hufanga, Tavon Wilson
There’s a damn good chance Ha Ha Clinton-Dix will return to the 49ers training roster after being fired on Tuesday. The former Pro Bowler came up with an interception in the preseason final on Sunday against the Las Vegas Raiders and was able to provide experience. For now, the 49ers will likely rely on Hufanga to some extent. USC’s round five rookie pick was one of the most impressive numbers in Santa Clara this summer.
Specialists: Robbie Gould, Mitch Wishnowsky, Taybor Pepper
No surprises here.