Unlike in previous years when teams reduced their rosters from 90 to 75 players before their final preseason game and then to a 53-man squad after it, there is only one cut-down day this year.
The 49ers, who currently have 89 players on the active roster, must be down to 53 players by 1 p.m. Saturday. That will allow them to keep most of their starters and older veterans out of the finale vs. the Chargers but will cause a mad scramble as teams try to evaluate 1,184 (or so) castoffs over the weekend.
If none of those castoffs are added, here's my guess on how the 49ers get to 53.
Quarterback (3). The question here is, if C.J. Beathard beats Matt Barkley for the role of No. 2 quarterback, do the 49ers need to keep three? When you combine Brian Hoyer's injury history with San Francisco's interior offensive line, the answer is, yes.
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* Brian Hoyer, Matt Barkley, C.J. Beathard
Running back (5). Does Raheem Mostert's performance -- against Vikings backups -- earn him a spot? He gets bonus points for having value on special teams, including as a punt-return gunner.
* Carlos Hyde, Matt Breida, Joe Williams, Raheem Mostert, Kyle Juszczyk
Wide receiver (5). Which of the "big" receivers won the battle for a roster spot? None. The one that makes the most sense is Aaron Burbridge because of his special teams value, but he's dealing with a hamstring injury. The 49ers should have no problem getting any of their young receiver like Victor Bolden or Kendrick Bourne or DeAndre Carter onto the practice squad. They likely could re-sign Louis Murphy if Pierre Garcon gets hurt.
* Pierre Garcon, Marquise Goodwin, Aldrick Robinson, Jeremy Kerley, Trent Taylor.
Tight end (2). With Vance McDonald on his way to Pittsburgh, George Kittle will be the top “move” tight end. Who among Garrett Celek, Blake Bell and Cole Hikutini take McDonald’s roster spot? With Kyle Juszczyk on the roster, it’s possible they go with just two tight ends.
* George Kittle, Logan Paulsen
Offensive line (9). Does good-looking rookie Erik Magnuson make the team over veteran Tim Barnes? It would mean that if Daniel Kilgore got hurt early in the season, Magnuson would take over as center. Joshua Garnett is a candidate to go on short-term injured reserve, so newcomer Laken Tomlinson takes his spot.
* Joe Staley, Zane Beadles, Laken Tomlinson, Daniel Kilgore, Brandon Fusco, Trent Brown, John Theus, Garry Gilliam, Tim Barnes.
Defensive line (10). Which of the 49ers' many defensive linemen is the team willing to deal? We may get clues by which of them play on Thursday. Will the team be able to sneak their sixth-round picks, D.J. Jones and Pita Taumoepenu, onto the practice squad? The Ravens and Steelers had interest in Taumoepenu during the draft. Maybe the team goes with the players who could help them most in the future. But if the 49ers cut Dial, who would be the backup nose tackle? Difficult decisions, indeed.
* Arik Armstead, DeForest Buckner, Earl Mitchell, Solomon Thomas, Tank Carradine, Elvis Dumervil, Aaron Lynch, Chris Jones, Quinton Dial, Pita Taumoepenu
Linebacker (6). This one seems pretty straightforward, especially considering that Brock Coyle and Dekoda Watson are standout special teamers.
* NaVorro Bowman, Reuben Foster, Eli Harold, Dekoda Watson, Brock Coyle, Ray-Ray Armstrong
Cornerback (5). Will Redmond's ankle injury cut short his bid to take the nickel spot from K'Waun Williams. A lot of evaluators liked him coming out of college. Could he make it to the practice squad or will other teams pounce?
* Rashard Robinson, Dontae Johnson, K’Waun Williams, Ahkello Witherspoon, Keith Reaser
Safety (5). Vinnie Sunseri plays both safety spots and has a big role on special teams, including as the fullback on punts. Lorenzo Jerome can play nickel cornerback as well as free safety. Which is to say, the team's safeties are a lot more versatile than the cornerbacks. Meanwhile, seventh-round pick Adrian Colbert only played four special teams snaps Sunday against Minnesota. He'll play a lot more against the Chargers, but teams won't have very much quality film on which to make an evaluation. He seems destined for the 49ers' practice squad.
* Eric Reid, Jimmie Ward, Jaquiski Tartt, Lorenzo Jerome, Vinnie Sunseri.
Specialists (3). These are obvious, although Nick Rose looked strong on a 55-yard field goal Sunday.
* Robbie Gould, Bradley Pinion, Kyle Nelson