For the better part of this century, any attempt to predict roster outcomes would only lead to depression. I would have my list of 35-40 guys who were locks and the remaining spots would be an amalgamation of the remaining stiffs that I was hoping would show some life. Oh, how the tides have turned. Any way you slice it, the team is going to have to cut some damn good players. Other teams are scouting our guys in the hopes of feeding off the scraps. As Martha Stewart would say, "It's a good thing." Here is a break down of how I see the roster shaping up as of now. I will analyze each position group, rationalize my decisions, and even take a stab at the practice squad.
Offense (26 Players):
QB (3): Alex Smith, Colin Kaepernick, Scott Tolzein
Rationale: This is a simple game of numbers. Johnson has the tools and I believe Harbaugh will try to trade him out of respect. Tolzein has no chance of making it through waivers and he looks like a really nice insurance policy if Kaepernick doesn't develop.
WR (6): Michael Crabtree, Randy Moss, Mario Manningham, Ted Ginn Jr., A.J. Jenkins, Kyle Williams
Rationale: Make no mistake; Kyle Williams is a good wide receiver. His skill set is unique in this group. He is quick, shifty, and a powerful blocker. I know people want him gone to purge the memory of the NFC Championship but that isn't going to happen. The guy with the most to lose here is Ginn. LaMichael James is a bigger threat to him than to anyone on this roster. Once he proves he can handle the wind in SF, Ginn will be gone. That will probably be after this season, but I see it happening. Moss is also, in all likelihood, a one year rental. He is being asked to mentor guys like Jenkins, Williams, and Crabtree so they can take over next year. This was the offenses weakest link last year and it is being corrected this year.
TE (2): Vernon Davis, Delanie Walker
Rationale: The flexibility of DeMarcus Dobbs allows the team to save a roster spot here. They proved last year that they can get a guy off the street, like Peele, to be an adequate stand-in and they will keep at least one guy one the practice squad for this position.
RB (6): Frank Gore, Brandon Jacobs, Kendall Hunter, LaMichael James, Rock Cartwright, Bruce Miller
Rationale: As many have said, it is time to see Anthony Dixon go. He has a great personality, lights it up on special teams, and shows flashes in the run game, but he just doesn't have a spot.
OL (9): Joe Staley, Mike Iupati, Jonathan Goodwin, Alex Boone, Anthony Davis, Joe Looney, Daniel Kilgore, Leonard Davis, Derek Hall
Rationale; Michael Person and Derek Hall will be in a battle for the fourth tackle position. I believe Hall has the edge, but I could be wrong. Davis makes it over Slowey because the bench needs experience. Baalke knows Slowey will have a pretty good chance to make it to the practice squad.
Defense (24 Players):
DL (7): Justin Smith, Isaac Sopoaga, Ray McDonald, Will Tukuafu, Ricky Jean-Francois, DeMarcus Dobbs, Ian Williams
Rationale: No suprises here. Ian Williams might be in danger, but we really haven't seen much of him so it will depend on the coach's impression. No one else really has a chance to crack this group.
LB (7): Aldon Smith, Patrick Willis, NaVorro Bowman, Ahmad Brooks, Parys Haralson, Larry Grant, Tavares Gooden
Rationale: This is a big chance. The team is set on the inside, but they go with just three OLBs again. It is tempting fate, but I believe they do it. Many have called for Haralson's dismissal, but that's not smart. He plays the run extremely well, knows the system, and is better than any one behind him on the roster. Yes, Bakhtiari looked great getting those two sacks, but the Viking's OL is far from deep. Joe Webb was running for his life most of the second half. The team will have to keep a guy on the practice squad and Bakhtiari will battle Cam Johnson for that honor. Heck, they might both make it.
S (5): Donte Whitner, Dashon Goldson, C.J. Spillman, Trent Robinson, Colin Jones
Rationale: Spillman improved tremendously and figures to see time in some nickel and dime formations this year. He is fast, hits hard, and seems to have a good nose for the ball. He should be an upgrade over Reggie Smith. Robinson, is an unknown but seems like the type of guy that will flourish as a special teamer and he can learn from the other three. Colin Jones is purely a special teamer, but is an ace in that department. The only question mark for him will be his lack of versatility. This coaching staff seems to love guys that can move around the field. Jones tried WR last year but that didn't seem to go anywhere.
CB (5): Carlos Rogers, Tarell Brown, Chris Culliver, Perrish Cox, Tramaine Brock
Rationale: The first four guys inspire plenty of confidence right now. Rogers and Brown had great years last year and Culliver was far more effective than we thought he might be. Cox has been out of football for a year but seems to be having a better camp than anyone. All four figure to be on the field at some point and I feel comfortable with any of them starting right now. Brock, is a different matter. He is a very good special teams player and has a good physical style, but he just doesn't seem to have the speed to play CB. I kept him for two reasons: 1. You can never have enough CBs, 2. If the secondary were hit with the injury bug he would be better than anyone on the practice squad or off the street. The team may decide to go with four here and strengthen the OLB position. I could see it going either way. In either case, this would likely be an inactive guy on game-days.
1. Chris Owusu - WR (His concussions will scare teams off and this is the perfect opportunity for him to avoid serious contact for a year.)
2. Cam Johnson - OLB (Raw skills and low college output made him available in the 7th. His knee injury lets him pass through waivers.)
3. Jason Slowey - C/OG (Position change and small school credentials should keep him available.)
4. Konrad Reuland - TE (This guy will be solid in this league. Let's hope teams don't see it yet.)
5. Joe Holland - ILB (Not a position of need but he has huge upside and his energy is perfect for the practice squad)
6. Curtis Holcomb - CB (He gets another year to heal. He could still be a steal. Smarts, leadership, and tenacity)
7. Tony Jerod-Eddie - DL (Big guy with tons of upside. Tends to piss people off.)
8. Eric Bakhtiari - OLB (He may not be here but we should double up on this position if we only go with three again. Kenny Rowe or Kourtnei Brown are options.)
Here is a short cut to the issues you might have:
1. I kept 6 WRs. It was a glaring need in the postseason. We loaded up on talent so we need to make sure we use them.
2. I only kept 2 TEs. It is risky, but DeMarcus Dobbs has shown promise as the blocking specialist and the roster spot is valuable.
3. I didn't list the specialists. Like that will be a suprise...
4. I only kept 3 OLBs again. Hey, it worked once.
Have at it, Chaps.