We’re nearing a pivotal finish line in the NFL, including for the San Francisco 49ers.
Who will become the final 53 options for every team this fall once rosters everywhere are complete, including the one on Marie P. Debartolo Way in Santa Clara.
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Two preseason games in, and the 49ers will be left with the daunting task of figuring out who will comprise the 53-man lineup. We’ve gotten an idea of who the roster locks are. We’ve seen surprises. However, we also have identified who needs this upcoming preseason game versus the Houston Texans on Thursday, August 25, to convince the 49ers brass that they are worth keeping. Let’s start with who on offense needs this game to convince they deserve a spot on the final 53:
Trey Sermon, Running Back
Hard to imagine that Sermon, the highest running back taken by the 49ers over last season’s lead rusher and fellow 2021 draft pick Elijah Mitchell, is facing the possibility of not making this final roster. Noted in this Heavy on 49ers story, two prominent insiders covering the 49ers aren’t convinced his future isn’t getting brighter in S.F.
But one look at Sermon’s preseason production plus the rise of Jordan Mason and the brute force of Tyrion Davis-Price — and that’s what helps signify that the No. 88 overall pick isn’t guaranteed a spot on the final depth chart.
Why Sermon could stay: Perhaps an ailment is preventing Sermon from showing his skill set. David Lombardi of The Athletic is one believer that Sermon’s struggles is due to an ankle injury and that Kyle Shanahan isn’t rushing him. He also noted that while Mason has impressed with his violent running style, it came at the expense of facing third and fourth string defenders trying to make their rosters for the Packers and Vikings.
Why he doesn’t make it: The 49ers, under Shanahan, have kept four backfield options. Mitchell and Davis-Price are likely locks. JaMycal Hasty has impressed this preseason. Jeff Wilson is also on board once again. Sermon could face practice squad or NFL trade deadline swap.
Willie Snead, Wide Receiver
Is the newly signed Snead already facing an uphill battle to stay on?
The 49ers typically carry five wideouts. If there’s a sixth, the slot receiver Snead could be up for the taking, but he’ll need more than the three snaps he had versus Minnesota from Saturday, August 20 to convince he’s worth keeping.
Why Snead could stay: Would give Trey Lance an extra underneath option, plus veteran WR who has played with three Pro Bowlers in Drew Brees, Lamar Jackson and Derek Carr — which helps in the experience room for Lance.
Why he doesn’t make it: The emergence of Danny Gray has 49er fans buzzing — and could snatch the No. 3 WR role. Outside of Gray, Ray-Ray McCloud sticks around with his special teams background. Snead hasn’t been used much there in his career. Snead could be practice squad material.
Dohnovan West, Center
West surprisingly went undrafted in April after receiving high praise for his blocking at Arizona State.
Now, with the emergence of two rookies in the trenches, West could be the odd man out.
Why West could stay: West did see an uptick in snaps versus the Vikings with 30 plays. He also lined up at right guard on 12 plays. His versatility could be his ticket to stay.
Why he doesn’t make it: Spencer Burford and Jason Poe have impressed the 49ers. Even Trent Williams has liked what he seen — calling Burford a “first or second round talent” and Poe “strong as an ox.” Poe could be the No. 2 center option to Jake Brendel over West. Burford has taken more snaps at RG over West.
Troy Fumagalli, Tight End
The 49ers already cleared the TE room with releasing Tanner Hudson on Tuesday, August 23.
Could they be one less another option in that room?
Why Fumagalli could stay: His blocking is ideal for a run-heavy offense. Fumagalli has delivered a run blocking grade of 67.7 by Pro Football Focus and 70.2 as a pass blocker.
Why he doesn’t make it: The 49ers have gone between 3-4 tight ends on the roster. Charlie Woerner is a lock at No. 2 behind George Kittle. Ross Dwelley was used as a fullback option and could back Pro Bowler Kyle Juszczyk there. The fourth is a battle between Fumagalli and free agent signing Tyler Kroft.
Brock Purdy, Quarterback
What will become of “Mr. Irrelevant?”
The seventh rounder is doing his part to make a final roster push. Is he the guy who takes Jimmy Garoppolo‘s roster spot?
Why Purdy could stay: Per PFF, Purdy is the highest graded passer compared to projected No. 2 Nate Sudfeld.
Why he doesn’t make it: Two reasons here — if Garoppolo, miraculously, extends his stay or if S.F. goes with two QBs. Purdy would pivot over to practice squad.