So here we are, at our third roster projection throughout this offseason. Fooch gave his thoughts on the quarterback situation, in which Alex Smith and David Carr seem enamored as the one and two, while Nate Davis is the majority third. He also recently posted his projection for the running backs, or the halfbacks that will make the final roster. He decided to handoff the fullbacks post to me, and since I possess hands that Adrian Peterson can only dream of, I'll get started.
It's an odd post to approach, considering the person who I'll be listing as my "lock" is thought by many fans as to be on the way out, yet just about everyone who "covers" the team believes he will still be here. I'm talking, of course, of Moran Norris. I have to wonder at times if anyone is actually disappointed with the way Norris has played (certainly he has declined, more on that later) or if said people are just excited about Brit Miller and what he could bring. It's not necessarily an unreal thing, either, because Miller appears to bring something to the table.
Included on this list is Michael Robinson, who doesn't necessarily need to show he can be a backup fullback to make the roster, but he'll get a look either way. Nate Byham looks to be a wildcard, because he's in the mix for the backup position.
Make the jump and we'll get talking.
I've listed Caulcrick on the bubble but I want to make it clear that Miller is currently ahead of him in the race. Caulcrick seems to be the best runner of the group, having a highly productive career as a running back in college. He went undrafted, and has been on both the Jets and the Buccaneers practice squad before signing with the team. He is definitely the biggest of the backs the 49ers have, but we won't know anything really about him until the pads go on.
Norris, as I've listed him, seems to be the lock. He's the best lead-blocker of the group. He's been dependable in the past, but offers not much else as far as running goes. He's been occasionally reliable when you toss him the ball and just send him at a group of guys, but beyond that, he's here because Frank Gore likes him in front of him. Norris had a great year in 2006, but after a stint with the Lions has never looked quite the same. Still, he's the best lead blocking option the team has.
Michael Robinson will likely make the roster as the DST, as someone else called it--the designated special teamer. I am of the opinion that he's not really competing with any of these guys, but as Matt Maiocco said it, Robinson is likely a shoe-in--but definitely has work to do. As a fullback, Robinson was serviceable, but was prone to being overpowered on blocks.
Byham is a player who has the most to show in training camp. For the team to keep him on the roster as a blocking tight end, he'll likely need to fulfill a backup fullback role as well. At this point, it doesn't look like the team would keep a number 3 TE and another 2 FB, so if Byham makes it, that means Miller and Caulcrick are out.
Brit Miller is the player that everyone seems to be excited about. He certainly has a lot to offer the team. He plays hard and showcases a lot of athleticism in what is a very deceiving package. He doesn't look like much, but in practice Miller is one of the hardest workers and seems to have established rapport with the guys in the locker room. As a lead blocker, Miller is still learning the position, and will need to prove himself on special teams as well to continue being on the 53-man roster. He has a leg up on Byham and Caulcrick, and is just behind Norris as far as what he can offer over all. Miller stands as the only player who can actually challenge Norris for the starting fullback job.
The question is simply whether or not Miller can make enough strides as a blocker to beat Moran Norris for the starting job--then that would definitely ensure two of them were kept on the roster. At the same time, Miller is still going to have to make a huge effort to convince the team they even want to carry a dedicated backup fullback. Byham and Robinson will need to show at least a passable ability to ensure a roster spot, and Caulcrick will need to be an absolute bruiser once the pads go on. Maybe knock out Isaac Sopoaga once or twice in training camp. Please.