While I was hanging around at training camp, I had a bit of free time. I still have a copy of the 49ers preseason roster from the first practice and so I used that to jot down some of my ideas about the regular season roster.
I started by putting together a list, by position, of the stone-cold locks and anybody else that was pretty much a guarantee to make the team. Here's that list:
QB - Alex Smith, Trent Dilfer, Shaun Hill (Getsy has a chance, but not really).
RB/FB - Frank Gore, Maurice Hicks, Michael Robinson, Thomas Clayton, Moran Norris
WR - Darrell Jackson, Arnaz Battle, Ashley Lelie, Jason Hill, Brandon Williams
TE - Vernon Davis, Delanie Walker
T - Jonas Jennings, Kwame Harris, Adam Snyder, Joe Staley
G - Larry Allen, Tony Wragge, Justin Smiley
C - Eric Heitmann, David Baas
DE - Bryant Young, Marques Douglas, Sam Rayburn, Ray McDonald
DT - Aubrayo Franklin, Isaac Sopoaga, Joe Cohen, Ronald Fields
OLB - Manny Lawson, Tully Banta-Cain, Jay Moore
ILB - Brandon Moore, Patrick Willis, Derek Smith, Jeff Ulbrich
CB - Nate Clements, Walt Harris, Shawntae Spencer, Tarell Brown
S - Michael Lewis, Mark Roman, Keith Lewis, Dashon Goldson
Special Teams - Andy Lee, Joe Nedney, Brian Jennings (long-snapper)
Special Teams: 3
There are probably a couple guys I included that are not on your initial lists. I went with guys who I think the coaching staff like (Delanie Walker), guys who have some history with the team (Shaun Hill) and general areas of need like the defensive line.
Now comes the hard part. It's not too difficult to predict a Patrick Willis or Alex Smith will make the roster. The difficult part is deciding who will fill in the remaining holes. A team has a 53-man roster but only has 45 active players (not including the 3rd string, injury replacement quarterback). I went through the rest of the preseason roster and came up with guys I see as sitting on the bubble, whether it be close to the roster or clearly on the wrong side of the bubble.
RB/FB - Zak Keasey
WR - Bryan Gilmore, Taylor Jacobs, Marcus Maxwell, Dominique Ziegler
TE - Zack Hilton, Billy Bajema
T - Patrick Estes, Harvey Dahl, Tavares Washington
DE - John Syptak
OLB - Roderick Green, Parys Haralson
ILB - Hannibal Navies, Colby Bockwoldt
CB - Marcus Hudson
S - Donald Strickland, Vickiel Vaughn
So if you had to choose 3 guys based on need, ability and a players general awesomeness, who would it be. In fact, let's break it down into two questions: Who would you like to be the last 3 and who do you think will actually be the last 3?
Who I want: Marcus Maxwell, Zack Hilton and Parys Haralson
Why? Well, NFL Europe sold me on Maxwell, even though I think he ends up hooking on somewhere else. Zack Hilton is one hell of a big dude and while he may struggle with the blocking, I'm a sucker for a nice pass-catching tight end who could join Vernon Davis in making matchup nightmares. As for Parys, he impressed me last season before going down with and injury and I'd like to see him get another crack at the team.
Who I think: Taylor Jacobs, Billy Bajema, and Roderick Green
Why? Well I see these specific positions being filled because we'll need a 6th receiver, the team always carries the third tight end and with the 3-4 in full effect, we'll need all the linebackers we can find.
I just have a funny feeling about Jacobs. He's been having a solid camp and I could see WR coach Jerry Sullivan being swayed by Jacobs underperforming talent. Bajema is an old standby, which should help his case. Roderick Green is a former Raven and while Nolan wants the best talent, I could see loyalty factoring in a little bit.
While you want quality performances from your entire roster, if we're heavily relying on the last 3 guys, something has definitely gonna wrong. At the very least it will make for an interesting camp and give you a couple extra reasons to watch preseason games. So feel free to throw out your own thoughts, whether they be your 3 guys or criticisms of the initial fifty players.