SANTA CLARA – One final exhibition game is all that remains between the 49ers’ 75-man roster and the mandatory cuts to 53 players.
The starters will not be on the field for very long – if at all – when the 49ers wrap up the preseason on Thursday night against the San Diego Chargers at Levi’s Stadium.
Coach Jim Tomsula acknowledged some spots remain unresolved with the 49ers expected to begin making cuts on Friday and finish up Saturday prior to the 1 p.m. (PT) deadline.
“We’re feeling good,” Tomsula said. “There’s some guys this is real important for. . . but that’s every year. But there’s a majority of things that are set in place.”
Here’s our final prediction of what the 49ers’ decision-makers might be thinking as they piece together their initial 53-man roster:
Colin Kaepernick, Blaine Gabbert
Worth noting: Undrafted rookie Dylan Thompson could be up against QBs on the waiver wire for a spot on 49ers’ practice squad.
Running back (5)
Carlos Hyde, Reggie Bush, Mike Davis, Jarryd Hayne, Kendall Hunter
Worth noting: The first three spots are wrapped up. Hayne, the team’s best return man, will not be ready to play running back in a regular-season game until he improves his knowledge of blitz pickup principles. Hunter’s spot is vulnerable as he works to regain confidence in his surgically repaired knee.
Worth noting: Reading the tea leaves, we’re projecting the NFL will impose discipline on Bruce Miller for violating the league’s policy on personal conduct. If so, the 49ers will go a week or two with no true fullback on the 53-man roster.
Wide receiver (5)
Anquan Boldin, Torrey Smith, Bruce Ellington, DeAndrew White, Quinton Patton
Worth noting: The 49ers will have six weeks to decide how to proceed once Jerome Simpson comes back from the reserve/suspended list for his violation of the NFL’s policy on substances of abuse. Also, rookie DeAndre Smelter is out for at least the first six weeks of the season after going on reserve/non-football injury. He could remain there the entire season.
Offensive line (9)
Joe Staley, Alex Boone, Erik Pears, Joe Looney, Marcus Martin, Brandon Thomas, Trent Brown, Ian Silberman, Jordan Devey
Worth noting: Dillon Farrell and Andrew Tiller remain in the mix as the 49ers head into the final exhibition game. Center Daniel Kilgore is out for at least the first six weeks of the season after being placed on reserve/physically unable to perform.
Tight end (4)
Vernon Davis, Garrett Celek, Blake Bell, Vance McDonald
Worth noting: The 49ers’ most-used personnel group this season will be two receivers and two tight ends.
Defensive line (7)
Glenn Dorsey, Ian Williams, Quinton Dial, Arik Armstead, Tank Carradine, Mike Purcell, Tony Jerod-Eddie
Worth noting: The 49ers guaranteed $2 million of Darnell Dockett's $3.5 million pay, so the odds suggest they will end up keeping him. But Dockett is a little banged up with some cracked cartilage in his ribcage, and he has not played much this summer. This group is loaded, and the 49ers could use some combination of the other players (Dorsey, Dial, Carradine, Armstead, Jerod-Eddie) for the inside pass-rush spots that they envisioned for the 34-year-old Dockett.
Outside linebacker (4)
Ahmad Brooks, Aaron Lynch, Eli Harold, Corey Lemonier
Worth noting: Just a guess, of course, but we’re projecting Brooks will remain on the 53-man roster to open the season. The NFL might not use the commissioner’s exempt list because Brooks has been charged with a misdemeanor – not a felony.
Inside linebacker (4)
NaVorro Bowman, Michael Wilhoite, Nick Moody, Nick Bellore
Worth noting: Bellore has seen action limited action at outside linebacker. The fact is he won’t play any defense this season unless there’s an in-game emergency. But Bellore is viewed as a core special-teams player. Shayne Skov and veteran Philip Wheeler are in the mix, but Moody is the top backup and plays key roles on special teams.
Tramaine Brock, Shareece Wright, Keith Reaser, Kenneth Acker, Donte Johnson
Worth noting: Keep an eye on Wright. If he is the team’s fifth corner, he could find himself on the outside. But with the attrition the 49ers experienced at this position last season, they’re probably going to hold onto as many at this spot as possible.
Antoine Bethea, Eric Reid, Jimmie Ward, Jaquiski Tartt, L.J. McCray
Worth noting: These five appear solid. But Craig Dahl will receive heavy consideration for a roster spot, too.
Phil Dawson, Bradley Pinion, Kyle Nelson
Worth noting: These spots are locked in.