Straight Out of the Rabbit’s Hole: Predicting the 49ers’ 53-man roster:

Diego Del Barco
Aug 30, 2013 at 10:09 AM

With the NFL preseason now wrapped up, the San Francisco 49ers (as well as all other NFL teams) must trim their roster from 75 players to 53.

(That means roughly 700 players will be put out on the market, ouch.)

Here is my prediction for who makes the cut, who doesn't, and who I wish would make the cut.

Quarterback (3): There isn't a lot of brain work to put into this - Colin Kaepernick is the undisputed starter (quickly becoming the face of the franchise), Colt McCoy, to my dislike, will be the team's backup QB, and it will be merely a formality once BJ Daniels is confirmed as a member of the 53-man group. Daniels all but saw his spot secured once Scott Tolzien (cut) and Seneca Wallace (reportedly retiring) said goodbye to the team, but just to make sure he put on another solid performance last night in San Diego, and we all know about his added value in the skill positions and special teams.

Running Back (3): Frank Gore will be the team's starter for the 8th straight season, while Kendall Hunter will serve as the main backup at this position. LaMichael James has a special role with the team as a situational RB and return man, although I wish he stopped returning punts because he did not look comfortable on that role at all this preseason (at home or on the road). Jewel Hampton is an intriguing practice squad candidate.

Full Back (2): Bruce Miller's excellence at this position is one of the great secrets in the NFL, and Anthony Dixon has earned himself a spot on this team, where he can contribute as a full back, running back, and special teams demon.

Wide Receiver (6): Ah, the spoiler with the number in the parenthesis. This will change a bit from my prior thoughts on the recent Upon Further Review. Anquan Boldin is a no doubter, and after finally seeing the field twice since Sunday, Quinton Patton is such a lock to make this team that people are starting to draft him in fantasy leagues. Kyle Williams and Jonathan Baldwin also make the cut for reasons stated in that UFR piece, but here's where I'm calling an audible: although I disagree with the selection, because I'm yet to be impressed by him, it seems a sure thing that Marlon Moore will make this team. My final pick is Lavelle Hawkins, because as far as the competition on the field has gone he seems to be winner above the rest of the WR's not making the cut, because he has legitimate NFL talent, and because the unsportsmanlike penalties from last Sunday will not be a constant under Jim Harbaugh's watch.

Tight End (3): Vernon Davis will look to build on last year's playoff performance and bounce back from some rough performances he had when Kaepernick initially became the starter. Vance McDonald has looked like he can be an integral part of this offense (and if you don't want to see him hurdling more people, then you dislike football). Garrett Celek gets the nod here over the rookie MarQueis Gray - Celek proved his worth on the team last season and has done nothing this preseason to bring his stock down, while the rookie Gray is making the transition from playing QB in college. I look for Gray to be stashed in the practice squad after he goes through waivers.

Offensive Line (8): The best offensive line in football will be back displaying Joe Staley, Mike Iupati, Jonathan Goodwin, Alex Boone, and Anthony Davis from left to right. Backing them up will be Adam Snyder (who can play anywhere on the line), Daniel Kilgore (Center and Guard), and Joe Looney (Guard).

Defensive Line (6): Justin Smith will lead this unit once again alongside the underrated Ray McDonald and the up-and-coming Ian Williams. Glenn Dorsey will rotate all over the line, while DeMarcus Dobbs and Will Tukuafu earn their spots because they provide much needed depth at the position, have the versatility to play on both sides of the ball, and can contribute on special teams as well. Dobbs and Tukuafu may not finish the season with the team if rookies Tank Carradine and Quinton Dial make a successful return from their injuries.

Outside Linebacker (5): Aldon Smith and Ahmad Brooks are locks, while rookie third round pick Corey Lemonier looked so good this preseason that he made Parys Haralson expendable. Dan Skuta was brought in to be a special teams ace, but he has proved he can be a contributor at this position as well. Cam Johnson, man, he locked up that 53rd spot with his performance last night in San Diego. We also need to remember he fell to the 7th round of the 2012 draft because of concerns unrelated to his on-field skills, but once he gets on the field he can be the disruptive force we all witnessed last night. You can't ever have too much pass-rush in this league.

Inside Linebacker (4): Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman will once again form the best linebacker duo in the NFL, while Michael Wilhoite and rookie sixth rounder Nick Moody will stay active on special teams. It is worth noting that Wilhoite had one of the strongest performance in preseason for this team and he should get the initial nod for playing time if either Willis or Bowman need a rest.

Cornerback (5): Carlos Rogers and Tarell Brown return as the starters in this unit, while former All-Pro Nnamdi Asomugha has reportedly locked up the 3rd CB job with a solid training camp and preseason. Tramaine Brock and Perrish Cox complete the set here, and they will both be active as dime CB's and special teams members (with Cox hopefully being involved as a kick/punt returner). Eric Wright is wild card here and he's someone to monitor from the Reserve/Non-Football Injury list.

Safeties (5): First rounder Eric Reid has won the starting job at FS, and he should make for a good combination with veteran SS Donte Whitner. Craig Dahl is likely to get the first crack at backing up either of the starters, while CJ Spillman brings a lot of value as a gunner on special teams. I predict Trenton Robinson will make the team, for now, but he could lose his spot on the team if the coaches feel Wright is more valuable once he comes off the Reserve/Non Football Injury list.

Kicker (1): Phil Dawson has looked GREAT in preseason.

Punter (1): Andy Lee is reportedly working on a knuckle punt as he attempts to regain his spot as the top punter in the NFC All-Pro and Pro Bowl rosters.

Long Snaper (1): Let's all have a moment of silence as we say goodbye to one of the all-time great 49ers in Brian Jennings. Kevin McDermott, an undrafted rookie out of UCLA, has looked pretty good throughout training camp and preseason and will most likely get the nod as a cheaper/younger alternative.


If I was choosing the practice squad: RB Jewel Hampton, WR Chuck Jacobs, WR Ricardo Lockette, TE MarQueis Gray, LB Nate Stupar, CB Darryl Morris, S Michael Thomas, DL Tony Jerod-Eddie.

Agree/Disagree? Let me know in the comments below. You can also follow me on Twitter @DiegoDelBarco.
The opinions within this article are those of the writer and, while just as important, are not necessarily those of the site as a whole.


  • Lucky Phil
    Straight Out Of The Rabbit Hole! And Let's KIck Some Ass, Diego! I'm Ready For Some Football!!!!
    Sep 1, 2013 at 8:48 AM
  • Frank
    With the benefit of latest cuts known (Hawkins might be in doubt, still), and the anticipated signing of Marecic, Dixon might be in trouble. I hope not, because he's a tough, physical runner and a ST standout. But, it gets down to a numbers game when you have this kind of talent throughout the roster. Agree, they'll likely sign an OL for the PS. Our 2nd stringers surely didn't impress during preseason. I'm happiest with our defense...they really look imposing everywhere. Reid's really impressed me with his instincts and, he's really fast. Was not impressed with either Tukuafu or let's hope Carradine and Dial get healthy and round out what should be one of the best DL's in the league. I believe our LB corps is the best in the league from top to bottom.
    Aug 31, 2013 at 11:34 AM
  • Bret
    I agree with most everything, but they might go Jerrod--Eddie over Tukuafu. Tukuafu made a couple of splashy plays, but he seemed to be the one guy who got pushed around a little bit. (Would $100k salary savings weigh into this?) Lockette and Stupar won't make the practice squad for the reasons others have pointed out. A surprise cut might be Looney. He's p-squad eligible and the way he played this summer, probably won't get claimed. The team only dresses 7 o-line on game-days anyway. I see this happening if there's an o-lineman they like who hits the waiver wire (or more likely a trade this morning since their claim position is so low). Just a thought...
    Aug 31, 2013 at 6:44 AM
  • Gonzola
    Great piece Diego! Your picks for the final roster are on the money. Keep Jacobs (#1) close. He is an asset. If the ball hits his hands - he will catch it. This is something I can not even say about some of the starters. I hope he continues to impress and progress! Cam Johnson and Craig Dahl = MONSTERS. They scare me. Ridiculous hits. Superb penetration. No missed tackles that I saw and some of the best all around football I have seen in preseason. Our 3rd string defense could take on many a 1st string in the NFL. I am not worried. Keep the Faith. God Bless Coach H. In Eddie D we Trust! Go NINERS!
    Aug 30, 2013 at 4:46 PM
  • Paul
    Love Dixon. Great attitude and makes a lot of solid plays.
    Aug 30, 2013 at 3:51 PM
  • Robert
    I'd be completely happy with this roster. The only two I questioned going into last nights game were Hawkins and Johnson but both answered the bell. Still, we will be cutting so much good talent. Good problem to have.
    Aug 30, 2013 at 12:45 PM
  • Paul_Hofer
    Most teams have at least 10 OL so starters aren't also on the scout teams during practice. So, with eight making the 53, probably two will be brought onto the PS, probably waiver pickups.
    Aug 30, 2013 at 11:59 AM
    Response: You're the second person to bring this up, I really didn't think about this at all. I agree that the PS OL's would be waiver pickups.
  • Dominic
    What about Cooper? You don't have him on the team or on the Practice Squad. According to reports, he is the best rookie CB we have.
    Aug 30, 2013 at 11:22 AM
    Response: Didn't really stand out to me.
  • Ron
    Agree 100% except I think Michael Thomas has earned the 5th safety spot over Trenton Robinson. He's a better tackler and more versatile in coverage. He also looks better in special teams coverage.
    Aug 30, 2013 at 11:07 AM
    Response: That is also one of the close battles, of course. I personally like Robinson better, but I could see it going either way, and Thomas has definitely have good performances this preseason.
  • Frank
    I agree with most including Lavelle Hawkins. Even though he made some bonehead plays, he made great plays everytime he was in there. I don't like Osgood nor Baldwin espcially after his resume of dropping passes appeared. I know that he has guaranteed money but I would consider Jacobs or even Austin Collie. Question: Do you think that 49ers with the plethora of draft picks they have next year, could package some of those up and pick up a high rated player such as a Marqise Lee from USC? Or a high rated corner?
    Aug 30, 2013 at 11:03 AM
    Response: The thing with Baldwin is the guaranteed money really has weight on the decision, and as far as talent goes he may just have more than anyone else (yes including Boldin, Crabtree, Patton, ANYONE). The physical skill set is off the charts, he has yet to put it together, but that plus the guaranteed money make him a lock.
  • Craig
    I would expect an OL on the Practice squad. I would expect Stupar to be claimed if he gets cut. I think Niners are done with Lockette.
    Aug 30, 2013 at 10:53 AM
    Response: There should probably an offensive lineman listed instead of Lockette, I just can't get over his upside. I don't necessarily like any of the remaining OL for the team, so we may see someone signed from other teams' cuts.
  • Keith
    What is Chuck Jacobs doing wrong to not make this team? Seems like he's made some terrific catches and not many mistakes. I can see Collie and Hall being eclipsed by Hawkins, but not Jacobs.
    Aug 30, 2013 at 10:46 AM
    Response: He hasn't done anything wrong, but in order to be the 5th/6th WR on the team he would need to be an active special teams player, and even though he put in some work as a returner in college he hasn't gotten an opportunity there with the 49ers. I really hope he makes the practice squad.
  • Gandrew
    Good guesses except for the practice squad. Every practice squad must have two O-Lineman so that the Starters don't have to play on the scout team.
    Aug 30, 2013 at 10:40 AM
    Response: That's a good point. I just listed the guys I feel are more deserving.
  • Paul_Hofer
    My hope is that Snyder will not be on the 53. Either his hand injury or his incompetence will force the team to scour cuts from other teams for a swing tackle.
    Aug 30, 2013 at 10:40 AM
    Response: Most offensive tackles will rather go to a team like the Raiders where they would have a legitimate chance to play. I'm not a huge fan of Snyder, but he is not THAT bad.
  • Cane
    Pretty much agree on everything, included the PS. Only 2 doubts are Stupar instead of Moody (but Moody is a draft pick...), and Thomas instead Robinson. Will be interesting to see what happen when many of the players on the injury lists will be cleared to be back on the field....
    Aug 30, 2013 at 10:39 AM
    Response: I'm taking Moody over Stupar because he was a draft pick, but it's definitely close.
  • Jon
    How about Tolzien for the PSquad?
    Aug 30, 2013 at 10:34 AM
    Response: It's a possibility, but I'm not sure that he brings more upside than other candidates.
  • Estes
    Hard to disagree with this assessment! You should list all the players that arent making the cut at the end after the Practice Squad comment. One thing is for certain- This team is STACKED!! I wasn't thrilled about Parys Harralson being traded as he is definitely one underrated player- guy is a stud! but after seeing Cam Johnson preformance, albiet against backups, I am absolutely okay with the call. If he plays half as well as he did against the Chargers we'll have a damn fine player on our hands for years to come. GO NINERS!
    Aug 30, 2013 at 10:29 AM
    Response: Thanks. I would make that list if I wasn't already so busy at the office (I had to hustle to finish this piece before work). This team certainly has the signs of having a deep roster that can help them return to the big dance, and hopefully win it.

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