As we wait patiently for the off season moves to start, I thought an examination of the roster would be helpful. Baalke and Harbaugh have shown a desire to build and replenish through the draft so the free agency period probably doesn't hold much excitement for us. Still, this regime has shown an ability to find gems at the right price (Skuta, Osgood, etc.) So, let's look at what we have and make a few assumptions on who we keep:
Whitner - He had his best year in 2013 and his leadership probably had more to do with Reid's outstanding rookie year than we might realize. At 29 he is still in his prime. Dahl or Spillman aren't good enough to take over, a free agent replacement would be over priced, and hoping to find another Eric Reid in the draft is wishful thinking.
Boldin - At 33 his market value is probably a bit down, but he is still as solid as they come. The price has to be right, but he should be back.
Dawson - He could demand a significant raise, but after dealing with that dumpster fire in Cleveland, he might stay here for free.
Wilhoite - As a RFA he is the easiest to keep. With Bowman's injury, Wilhoite becomes even more valuable.
With those assumed signings, here is the roster breakdown:
QBs: (3 roster spots)
Current: Colin Kaepernick, McLeod Bethel-Thompson
Draft Outlook: The revolving door of veterans this past season suggests that the team will bring in at least one experienced signal caller to compete for the back-up position. That being said, I think Harbaugh would like to have another young player to tutor. Look for the team to draft a QB some time in rounds 3-5. A.J. McCarron seems like a guy Harbaugh would love.
RBs: (5 roster spots)
Current: Frank Gore, Marcus Lattimore, Kendall Hunter, LaMichael James, Bruce Miller
Draft Outlook: If Lattimore comes to camp fully recovered, this position group looks to be one of the strongest on the team. Tukuafu will remain an option to backup Miller. I don't see the Niners using a pick on this position before the 6th round. If they do take a RB, it will probably be some one with big Special Teams upside. Dixon will be missed, but the numbers don't look good for his return.
TEs (3 roster spots)
Current: Vernon Davis, Vance McDonald, Garrett Celek
Draft Outlook: McDonald has huge upside but failed to break out during his rookie year. Celek is Billy Bajema redux. I would love to see a more athletic option for the third TE spot. Look for the team to bring in some competition anywhere from round 4 - UDFA.
WRs: (5 roster spots)
Current: Michael Crabtree, Anquan Boldin (Assumed), Quinton Patton
Draft Outlook: One of the two position groups, along with CB, that figures to see plenty of activity on draft day. Look for a WR to be taken in the first two rounds and at least one more later on in the draft. The fact that the team is only returning two proven players at this position, I could also see a bargain deal for a veteran, but the more likely scenario is bringing Osgood back for Special Team excellence.
OL: (9 roster spots)
Current: Joe Staley, Mike Iupati, Daniel Kilgore, Alex Boone, Anthony Davis, Joe Looney, Adam Snyder, Ryan Seymour, Carter Bykowski, Luke Marquadt, Al Netter
Draft Outlook: Many mock drafts on here have us taking a center with a high to mid-round pick. I just don't see the team looking to replace Goodwin with a rookie. That said, I do think the team will look to add an inside guy and an outside guy for the sake of competition. Assuming Goodwin isn't back, Kilgore will get the first crack at the starting center role. Looney will also have a chance to push him. Seymour might even be a dark horse in the race. It will be interesting to see how Marquadt does now that he is healthy. Bykowski looked completely over matched in preseason so Marquadt will have a good chance to leap frog him. Can he move ahead of Snyder? He certainly looks the part. Ultimately, look for the team to wait until day three to add competition her unless they see some one who they value too highly to pass on.
DL: (7-9 roster spots)
Current: Justin Smith, Ray McDonald, Ian Williams, Glenn Dorsey, Tony Jerrod-Eddie, Tank Carradine, Quinton Dial
Draft Outlook: Again, I have seen many projecting a D lineman early. While I see the need to keep this unit strong after Justin Smith retires, I don't see the need to use a high pick this year to do so. Behind Smith and McDonald Jerrod-Eddie has proven solid and Carradine is a wild card with tons of potential. Add the return of Ian Williams and the surprising play of Dorsey and this unit has never been stronger. That's not to say we won't add another guy or two for competition. Just don't look for one before the 3rd round.
ILB: (4 roster spots)
Current: Patrick Willis, NaVorro Bowman, Michael Wilhoite, Nick Moody, Darius Fleming
Draft Outlook: Considering the strength of the starters and the relative ease of resigning Wilhoite, we won't need much here. Bowman's recovery may land him on the PUP list, so a few bodies will be needed, but Wilhoite and Moody should be able to handle NaVorro's absence. 4th round or later.
OLB: (4-5 roster spots)
Current: AHmad Brooks, Aldon Smith, Dan Skuta, Corey Lemonier
Draft Outlook: Despite the strength of this unit, pass rushers are always at a premium. Any chance to land a pass rusher with talent might be taken.
CBs: (5-6 roster spots)
Current: Chris Culliver, Tramaine Brock, Carlos Rogers, Darryl Morris
Draft Outlook: An already thin unit will likely get thinner when Carlos Rogers is cut. It is conceivable that he is back with a severe pay cut, but even with his return this unit needs an infusion of talent. Morris has great speed and proved himself on special teams. Brock took a huge leap into the starting line up and Culliver's return should make Tarell Brown's departure palatable. Look for a CB to be taken in the first two rounds and another one added later. We could see the weak link of the defense become a strength very soon.
Safety: (4-5 roster spots)
Current: Eric Reid, Donte Whitner, Craig Dahl, C.J. Spillman
Draft Outlook: Even if Whitner returns, this unit needs more talent. Reid was a tremendous find, but the back-ups offer a huge drop off. Dahl is limited at best on defense. Spillman has talent, but hasn't been able to get on the field much. Still, Spillman is one of the best special teamers in the league. Any draft pick would be competing with Dahl. Look for a safety to be taken in the 2-4 round area. Late round guys haven't panned out lately. It's time to groom Whitner's replacement.