Entering the offseason, the San Francisco 49ers seemed to have two glaring needs that had to be filled. The wide receiver group lacked depth and a future plan, while the cornerbacks needed another playmaker or two to solidify the unit.
The team addressed both positions in various ways, and now find themselves with crowded depth charts. Here is a look how the situation may play out:
Obviously, the top three receivers will be Crabtree, Boldin and Johnson in whatever order will match up better with the opposing defense that day. Odds are Johnson is being looked at as Crabtree insurance should the team let the pending free agent walk after 2014, so the former Buffalo Bill will get plenty of snaps.
Ellington is a lock to make the roster coming into his rookie year. The 49ers wouldn’t have spent a fourth round pick on him if they didn’t envision the speedster to be a big part of the future plans. The same can be said for Patton, who will only be entering his second season.
Considering how valuable Osgood is to the special teams unit, it looks like Lloyd will be the odd man out. There is still a chance he makes the team if there are injuries, but in all likelihood his comeback to the NFL will be short lived.
On the roster: Crabtree, Boldin, Johnson, Patton, Ellington, Osgood
While there’s strength in numbers, there are still a number of lingering question marks with this group.
Brock and Culliver look like the unquestioned starters, but they both lack experience. Brock has seven regular season starts under his belt, while Culliver missed all of 2013 with an ACL injury. Both have proven to be capable, but it remains to be seen how either will hold up on the first team over a 16-game slate.
Ward, who the 49ers spent their 2014 first round draft selection on, will be used in the nickel role. While he has tremendous upside, he will go through ups and downs like any rookie.
That will leave Cox, Cook, Wright, Johnson and Acker left to battle for the remaining roster spots. Reaser, who is recovering from an ACL, will begin his career on the Physically Unable to Perform list.
Cox played well in 2013 and earned enough trust that the team used him as the fourth corner in the playoffs. Heading into camp, he might have the early lead over the rest of the group. Morris proved to be valuable on special teams, which could allow him to sneak into the final spot on the depth chart.
However, don’t underestimate Wright, who has been a starter in the league before. Johnson will figure into the team’s plans at some point, but he could be a year away from making a real impact should things stay status quo. If he does impress in camp though, Wright or Cox could see their roster spots in serious jeopardy.
On the roster: Brock, Culliver, Ward, Cox, Wright, Johnson
Practice Squad: Morris
Cut: Cook, Acker
Photo: Getty Images
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