Before the draft process, I took a look at the 49ers' roster and tried to assess where there were openings and what players they might be looking at to fill those voids. Now that the 2010 draft is in the books, I wanted to see what the 53 man roster might look like, what position battles to expect, what the starting line-up should look like in week one, and what holes have been filled:
Offense: (Usually 25 players)
Starter: Alex Smith
Back-up: David Carr
Work in progress: Nate Davis
* Many people believed we would address this position in the draft, but the only addition was UDFA Jarret Brown. The Front Office obviously wanted to show Alex that they believe in him. Brown could find a home on the PS as developmental insurance for Nate Davis.
Starters: Michael Crabtree and Josh Morgan
Slot: Jason Hill
Returner/Lid Lifter: Ted Ginn Jr.
Position Battle: Brandon Jones vs. Kyle Williams- Many people on this forum have called for Jones' outright release, but I am of the opinion that he was a bit of a forgotten man last year. Jones was hurt early in camp, after a spectacular early camp, and was lost in the hit show "As the Crabtree Turns". The pressure is now on him to show his worth. Williams is a natural receiver with speed and elusiveness; he may not be tall, but he is an extremely hard worker and he adds ST value which is the key. Remember, Jones was given the chance to claim the Punt Returner job midseason and failed.
* This is the deepest receiving corps this team has had in a LONG time. The position battles will be great to watch in the pre-season and I am very glad they got insurance for Ginn.
Starting RB: Frank Gore
Back-up: Glen Coffee
ST Ace: Michael Robinson
Position Battle: Anthony Dixon vs. LeGarrette Blount
Position Battle: Moran Norris vs. Brit Miller vs. Jehuu Caulcrick
* As soon as the Blount signing was announced, many people on this forum began the paperwork to release Glen Coffee and Michael Robinson. That is premature. True, Coffee was less than dazzling in relief of Gore, but the coaching staff believes he can be an every down back in this league. Remember, Coffee got the majority of his carries at the beginning of the season when the Offensive line was playing the worst. Coffee is extremely effective in blitz pick-up, is a decent receiver out of the backfield, and he has put on about 15 pounds to increase his power after contact. Coffee will get at least one more year as Gore's primary back-up. Robinson, on the other hand, is no longer a work in progress. He will never be a ball carrier on this team. His value is as a Special Teamer, blocker, and receiver out of the backfield. His position on this team is more tenuous, but with our problems last year in the return game you would have to think that they wouldn't want to hurt the Special Teams by cutting their captain. Additionally, Blount may be an amazing talent, but he is still a character risk. Singeltary has a reputation as a reformer, but one offseason isn't enough time to make this guy into a saint. If Blount doesn't beat Dixon out as the third rusher, he will probably be put on the practice squad. If he shows he is a changed man after a year, then he can take Robinson's spot. The Fullback battle is much more interesting to me. Norris CAN be an extremely effective lead blocker, but he has dissappointed for the last several seasons. Miller was electric in the pre-season and Caulcrick can be a dynamic ball carrier. This will be worth watching this summer.
Starter: Vernon Davis
Reserve: Delanie Walker
Position Battle: Nate Byham vs. J.J. Finley vs. Tony Curtis
* I will admit, I am not a fan of carrying a blocking TE. It seems like a waste of a roster spot that could go to a RB or WR. That being said, it would appear that the team is intent on having that kind of specialist.
Starters: LT Joe Staley, LG Mike Iupati, C Eric Heitmann, RG Chilo Rachal, RT Anthony Davis
Reserves: Barry Sims, David Baas, Tony Wragge
Position Battle: Adam Snyder vs. Alex Boone
* Well, we certainly upgraded our OL in this draft. Contrary to what the team is saying, Iupati and Davis will start week one. They are too good and this unit as bad horrible. As for the reserves, Sims showed his value as a back-up LT last year, Baas is familiar with the system so he can step in if there is an injury to Iupati (KNOCK ON WOOD), and Wragge can play all three interior positions but the fact that he can play Center is his real value. Baas has never taken any snaps in the middle. Boone came into camp with a transformed physique and, apparently, work ethic. Snyder's days may be numbered, especially since his value as an OG is lessened by Baas' presence on the bench. I can't put into words how happy I am that this unit has been infused with some BIG time talent.
Defense: (Usually 25 players)
Starters: RDE Justin Smith, NT Aubrayo Franklin, LDE Isaac Sopoaga
Reserves: Ray McDonald, Demetric Evans, Ricky Jean-Francois
Position Battle: Kentwan Balmer vs. Derek Walker vs. Khalif Mitchell
* This is one of the sore spots of the draft for me. I REALLY wanted to get a guy that could play NT. Franklin put in a great season last year, but he is on a one year contract and he is the only guy on the roster that has ANY experience playing NT (Sopoaga doesn't count. He never did get the position right.). Despite that issue, we still have a very strong DL. Balmer's recovery from the shoulder injury will be key. I might be the only fan that still thinks we could make him into a player. He took a few years to come around in college, and he has the size to play NT. If he doesn't recover in time or doesn't show progress when he is healed, he will be pushed. Remember, we snatched Walker from another team's PS at the end of the year, so we must have liked him. Mitchell is a guy that was flip-flopped between DL and OL, but it would seem that they are giving him one more look at NT. He has the size, but that isn't everything.
Starters: WILL Parys Haralson, TED Takeo Spikes, MIKE Patrick Willis, SAM Manny Lawson
Reserve ILB: Scott McKillop and Navorro Bowman
Reserve OLB: Ahmad Brooks and Travis LaBoy
Position Battle: Matt Wilhelm vs. Diyral Briggs vs. Martail Burnett
* Many were shouting for us to take a pass rushing OLB in this draft, but the team was content with what they have, and I agree. The team did add Bowman to learn the TED, or at least try. I'm very excited about the LaBoy signing and I believe he will add some fire to the rotation. The position battle will essentially be for special teams. Wilhelm would be insurance for a young set of back-up ILBs and he knows Manusky's system, but Briggs worked his way onto the field last year and adds another pass rusher. Burnett might have an outside shot if he really impresses this summer.
Starting Safeties: Dashon Goldson and Michael Lewis
Starting Corners: Shawntae Spencer and Nate Clements
Reserve Safety: Taylor Mays
Reserve Corners: Tarell Brown and Karl Paymah
Position Battle: Reggie Smith vs. Curtis Taylor
Position Battle: Keith Smith vs. Phillip Adams vs. LeRoy Vann vs. UDFAs vs. FA signings after the draft
* After the first three rounds of the draft went by without the team selecting a CB I really wasn't that upset. If we had had a shot at Haden or Wilson, I would have been happy with them, but after that I was glad that we addressed other needs instead. Yes, CB will have to be a need for next year's draft, along with NT, but I believe we will be fine with what we have. The demise of Clements was greatly exaggerated and Spencer went from dime back to the best on the team in one offseason. I also think that Brown will learn from the issues he had last year and will be a strong nickel for us this year. Paymah is more of a ST player, but I really don't know that much about him and he might end up helping us this year or he might be further prove that we need to address this position next year. As for the safeties, I wasn't that thrilled with the selection of Mays, but I have warmed to the idea of having a younger, faster, stronger Michael Lewis waiting in the wings. He'll be a ST beast this year while learning the SS position from Lewis before taking over either this season or next. The selection of Mays creates a position battle. Unless Reggie Smith is switched to CB, we won't carry him and Curtis Taylor. They will battle it out and we can only hope that they both stay healthy throughout training camp, which has been an issue for both of them. The other position battle will most likely be renderred moot when we sign Dre' Bly again. Bly hasn't gotten much attention anywhere else and he is familiar with the system. We could have a much worse stopgap! Walt Harris will probably be brought back as well, but I don't see him making the team. Those knee injuries usually take 2 years to fully recover and Harris is not a young man. Combine that with the fact that speed has been W*alt's biggest weapon and the chances become slimmer. He will probably be put on the PUP or IR. LeRoy Vann is the Wildcard. He played CB in college, but he would be kept purely as a returner. I could see them keep 10 DBs if they want more insurance for Ginn, but I don't know what positional unit would be a man down.
Kicker: Joe Nedney
Punter: Andy Lee
LS: Brian Jennings
* Three of the best in the business. The only thought is that Nedney is getting older, but kickers are always available.
Alright, so I know this was a long post, but I just love putting the pieces of the puzzle together before looking at the box. (Explaining the Metaphor: Puzzle=Team, Box=2010 Season).