SAN DIEGO -- Earlier this week, I offered a 53-man roster projection for the San Francisco 49ers before they played their final preseason game. More important, it came before we got key injury updates on some players.
The 49ers will trim the roster from 75 to 53 by Saturday's 4 p.m. ET deadline along with the rest of the league. Here's my best guess at how that will look with a few tweaks from Monday's projection:
(Note: Outside linebacker Aaron Lynch will make the team but is suspended the first four weeks of the season.)
Gabbert looks like a guy who has locked down the starting job and he's undoubtedly set to make the roster. At this point, it would be a surprise if Kaepernick didn't stick as well. The real question is whether the 49ers intend to keep two or three quarterbacks. Rookie Jeff Driskel struggled but looks like a good practice squad candidate. The 49ers could just do that and not keep a third quarterback, but Christian Ponder had two strong preseason performances that would make him a solid veteran option to keep around. Perhaps a third quarterback such as Ponder would be viewed as a luxury, but it's a luxury the 49ers can and should afford but probably won't.
This feels like a spot a corresponding move could be made if the team were to keep a third quarterback. But given Hyde's injury history and Draughn's battles with injury in the preseason, we're going to stick with these four. Rookie Kelvin Taylor could be a practice squad stash but letting Harris go would difficult after he showed juice in the preseason. His fumbling issues didn't help his cause, and the three backs listed above him all seem like safe bets.
Losing Bruce Ellington for the season to a hamstring injury only further muddled an already tough group to figure out. Smith, Patton and Kerley are the only wideouts with any sort of track record of catching passes in the NFL. White has been solid if unspectacular, leaving up to two spots for players who haven't proved much of anything. Anderson has showed toughness, made difficult catches in traffic during the preseason and can contribute on special teams. Burbridge hasn't done much but he's a drafted rookie the team could take a longer look at. The wild card here is DeAndre Smelter, who ended up not appearing in a preseason game because of a hamstring injury of his own. He remains an intriguing player but it's hard to project a player who is never on the field. Smelter would probably get through to the practice squad at this point.
Je'Ron Hamm has flashed potential and could potentially steal a spot from Bell but McDonald and Celek are set to contribute to the offense and Miller is too valuable on special teams and in the locker room.
The first seven appear to be pretty well etched in stone barring a surprise but there's plenty of wiggle room for the final two spots and the Niners could even keep as many as 10 if they want. Martin hasn't showed much in the preseason but he's the only one with center experience and can play both guard spots. The 49ers have been giving Beadles work at the pivot but it's unclear if he'd be able to play there in a game at this point. John Theus and Cooper were both 2016 draft picks and it stands to reason the 49ers would want to keep at least one on the active roster and send the other to practice squad. Theus has been out with injury while Cooper has been working at tackle with the second team and offers versatility.
Garrison Smith played well in the preseason and is probably deserving of a spot, but because the 49ers have to carry Dorsey while he works his way back from knee surgery, Smith gets squeezed out. It's possible Smith could beat out Jerod-Eddie or Purcell but the Niners might have to try to get him through to the practice squad again. The rest of this group is set.
The inside linebacker spot next to Bowman is the toughest to figure. San Francisco might have tipped its hand Thursday night when Hodges and Armstrong didn't play while Michael Wilhoite got a ton of reps. Wilhoite is solid and reliable and can play both inside positions but doesn't offer the upside of Hodges and Armstrong. Bellore's knee injury complicates his situation but he's expected to be a key contributor on special teams. Rush had a tremendous preseason albeit against backups but he has pass-rush chops and can play special teams, so he gets a four-week look while the Niners await Lynch's return.
It's a close call for the final couple of spots here but special teams and versatility become deciding factors as they always do. That leaves Cromartie edging out L.J. McCray and Dontae Johnson in a tight battle. Frankly, it wouldn't be a surprise if any of those guys made it but the 49ers will have a good problem on their hands in that there are good options here.
Not much to decipher here.