The 49ers are halfway into their four-game exhibition season. But the next week figures to be a big one with the first cuts looming in a week.
The 49ers will engage in joint practices with the Denver Broncos on Wednesday and Thursday at the Broncos' facility. Those workouts should serve the dual purpose of helping prepare the team for the regular season, as well as giving the team’s decision-makers a better evaluation of the players on their roster.
All NFL teams must cut their 90-man rosters to 75 next Tuesday. The cuts to the regular-season limit of 53 players must be executed by 1 p.m. (PT) on Saturday, Sept. 5.
Here’s our projection at how the 49ers’ 53-man roster could look on opening day:
Colin Kaepernick, Blaine Gabbert
Worth noting: Undrafted rookie Dylan Thompson appears ticketed for the practice squad.
Running back (5)
Carlos Hyde, Reggie Bush, Mike Davis, Jarryd Hayne, Kendall Hunter
Worth noting: Hayne and Hunter remain under the most scrutiny for the remainder of the exhibition season. Hunter is a proven running back who has not fully gotten past the ACL tear that wiped out his 2014 season. Hayne is not quite ready to be an NFL running back in the regular season but he has unique skills in the return game.
Worth noting: Don’t sleep on Trey Millard, who could fit into the mix as a core special-teams player.
Wide receiver (5)
Anquan Boldin, Torrey Smith, Quinton Patton, DeAndrew White, Bruce Ellington
Worth noting: Chuck Jacobs has put together a good camp, and undrafted rookie Dres Anderson has yet to really show his stuff due to a nagging injury. Ellington is the incumbent return man who is losing ground to Hayne. But if he gets healthy, he could be their top candidate for the No. 3 receiver job to open the season.
Offensive line (9)
Joe Staley, Alex Boone, Erik Pears, Joe Looney, Marcus Martin, Brandon Thomas, Trent Brown, Ian Silberman, Jordan Devey
Worth noting: Devey gets the nod on this list, right now, but one player who might find his way onto the 53-man roster again is Dillon Farrell.
Tight end (3)
Vernon Davis, Blake Bell, Vance McDonald
Worth noting: A week ago, the 49ers looked as if they would keep four tight ends. But with the trades of Derek Carrier and Asante Cleveland, they can go with bigger numbers at other spots. Garrett Celek remains in the thick of things.
Defensive line (7)
Glenn Dorsey, Ian Williams, Quinton Dial, Darnell Dockett, Arik Armstead, Tank Carradine, Mike Purcell
Worth noting: Tony Jerod-Eddie and Lawrence Okoye are also in the mix. Okoye, who has put together his best camp, could be back on the practice squad if he clears waivers.
Outside linebacker (4)
Ahmad Brooks, Aaron Lynch, Eli Harold, Corey Lemonier
Worth noting: Undrafted rookie Marcus Rush has shown enough to at least land a spot on the practice squad.
Inside linebacker (4)
NaVorro Bowman, Michael Wilhoite, Nick Moody, Nick Bellore
Worth noting: Veteran Desmond Bishop’s chances were dealt a blow with his thumb injury, which required surgery. Shayne Skov has earned an extra-long look, but Bellore is a proven NFL special-teams contributor.
Tramaine Brock, Shareece Wright, Keith Reaser, Kenneth Acker, Donte Johnson
Worth noting: It’ll be difficult for anyone else at this stage to work their way onto the roster ahead of these five.
Antoine Bethea, Eric Reid, Jimmie Ward, Jaquiski Tartt, L.J. McCray
Worth noting: Craig Dahl has done nothing wrong, but the 49ers have some young players at this spot worth developing into contributing roles.
Phil Dawson, Bradley Pinion, Kyle Nelson
Worth noting: The intrigue ended with the 49ers’ decision to trade punter Andy Lee to Cleveland.
Physically unable to perform
C Daniel Kilgore
Worth noting: Kilgore will not be ready for the regular season opener. If they feel he could play in Week 3 or 4, they could carry him on the 53-man to start the season rather than have him ineligible for the first six weeks of the season.
WR DeAndre Smelter
Worth noting: Initially, there was talk that Smelter could be ready at some point in camp. More likely, he remains on this list for the entire season after sustaining an ACL tear that ended his final season at Georgia Tech.
WR Jerome Simpson
Worth noting: After serving his six-game suspension, the 49ers must make a move to create roster space to activate him. Or, they could choose to cut him.