Ninjames' Note: Very solid fanpost from Tre9er, as I'm experiencing many technical difficulties in getting some posts up.
One of the most intriguing things to consider as we approach the preseason is the battle one player will have with another at a different position. There comes a point where it no longer is a matter of who will win the second spot in the cornerback battle, when it's not necessarily a mystery who the backup quarterback is. However there's a point where one player's chances depend on the intangible aspect of playing better at his position than another player is at playing a completely different position. You start getting into the blurry mess that is "Can this sixth cornerback be more of an overall contributor than the backup fullback?"
In some recent fanposts, such as this one and this one, there has been some discussion regarding how many offensive linemen will be kept, how many CB's, WR's, etc. But the landscape starts to change as the final spots come into view. After the jump let's look at some hypothetical examples.
For instance, let's look at a guy like Brit Miller. The team could probably go without a second fullback in 2010. In 2009 the roster included four RB's (Frank Gore, Glen Coffee, Michael Robinson, Moran Norris). This year you can add Anthony Dixon to that same list. If Miller is looked at as a FB, the team is going to have six running backs on the roster, two more than 2009.
But when it comes time to "trim the fat", what if Miller is widely held as one of the best special teams players? We know the value Singletary and company have placed on special teams this off-season. Miller was a beast on special teams last year and has a full season of experience under his belt now. If he makes the roster based on special teams you will have to accept the fact that an "extra" RB made the roster.
Or will that be enough? What if Miller is great in special teams but shows to be an absolutely horrible FB? Now how does that change things? Now he's competing solely on a special teams basis, possibly against a LB or a TE, or another position.
The same argument could be made (as James did earlier today) for Nate Byham. The team might not really need that third TE. What if Jimmy Raye decides that there aren't enough plays per game to really warrant keeping him around, yet he's a monster on special teams? Maybe he shows he can play some backup FB too?
Then there's a guy like LeRoy Vann, who has immense return potential but would be rostered as a CB, possibly pushing the number of CB's on the roster to six.
The point is, the "three or four special teams guys" who will make the roster on that premise, will also be guys who play a position...and they will be competing against other guys who play a different position than their own. The question goes from "Is Karl Paymah better than Keith Smith?" to "Is Paymah close in ability to Smith and do his special teams abilities put him over the top in terms of overall value? But wait, is he better in special teams than Jason Hill, a WR? Who has better overall value to the team?"
So, as you can see there will be much more to the final roster than how many players the perceived "maximum" is for a given position...and at times, we'll see a really big powerful dude competing against a savvy smaller guy...both for the same roster spot.
Here are some bubble players who will be competing for "overall team value" as they are not necessarily needed at their "natural position", or have competition:
Dixon, Miller, Caulcrick, Byham, Finley, Curtis, Ziegler, Jones, Snyder, Boone, Briggs, Mitchell, Burnett, Paymah, Adams, Stoudamire, C. Taylor, R. Smith, Vann