June 6 we did our first 53-man roster projection. Probably a little early, but most major transactions had taken place at that point. August 11 we did our second 53-man roster projection, one game into the exhibition season. With one game remaining for the 49ers, the final cut down date is Saturday, so now is as good a time as any for this final roster projection.
49ers blogger Chrissy Mauck actually posted some thoughts on the 53-man rather than project it out. She works with the players on a daily basis so it's probably not as easy coldly saying cut or no cut. I thought I'd run some of her thoughts before putting my final projection.
On Ashley Lelie
I would be absolutely SHOCKED if they cut Ashley Lelie. I know everyone else is putting him on the bubble, but in this Martz’ offense, I think you want six receivers and Martz talked many times this off-season about how talented he thinks Lelie is. I don’t think the guy gets cut because he had a calf injury.
At the start of camp, I thought it would come down to Tully Banta-Cain or Parys Haralson, but I think Roderick Green has also made a case for himself. The 49ers could end up keeping two out of the three.
On Keith Lewis
He has had some mistakes on special teams during the preseason, but special teams coach Al Everest knows Lewis is one of the best around the league. Since the units have struggled, I think Al definitely fights for Lewis to be on the 53.
Nothing stunning there, but people really think Ashley Lelie is going to stick around. At the same time, if the 49ers can keep Zeigler on the practice squad and Lelie struggles early on, I think he could be cut at any point during the season. Additions since projection #2 are bolded and underlined
QB (3): Alex Smith, Shaun Hill, J.T. O'Sullivan
RB (3): Frank Gore, DeShaun Foster, Michael Robinson
FB (1): Zak Keasey
WR (6): Isaac Bruce, Bryant Johnson, Arnaz Battle, Jason Hill, Josh Morgan, Ashley Lelie
TE (3): Vernon Davis, Delanie Walker, Billy Bajema
LT (2): Joe Staley, Barry Sims
LG (2): Adam Snyder, Tony Wragge
C (2): Eric Heitmann, Cody Wallace
RG (2): David Baas, Chilo Rachal
RT (1): Jonas Jennings
DE (4): Isaac Sopoaga, Justin Smith, Kentwan Balmer, Ray McDonald
DT (2): Aubrayo Franklin, Ronald Fields
OLB (3): Manny Lawson, Tully Banta-Cain, Parys Haralson
ILB (5): Patrick Willis, Jeff Ulbrich, Dontarrious Thomas, Takeo Spikes, Larry Grant
CB (6): Nate Clements, Walt Harris, Shawntae Spencer, Tarell Brown, Donald Strickland, Reggie Smith
FS (2): Mark Roman, Dashon Goldson
SS (2): Michael Lewis, Keith Lewis
K: Joe Nedney
P: Andy Lee
LS: Brian Jennings
KR/PR: Allen Rossum
Last 5 on: Ashley Lelie, Larry Grant, Chilo Rachal, Cody Wallace, Zak Keasey (as opposed to Moran Norris)
First 5 off: Moran Norris, Dominique Zeigler, Thomas Clayton, Brian De La Puente, Roderick Green
I added Ashley Lelie to the 53-man projection simply because of the buzz in the media. Personally, I'd rather see what Zeigler can do on game day, but unfortunately I was recently informed that I don't have a vote in the matter (shocking, I know). However, like I said above, if Lelie struggles, I think he's on an especially short leash.
In order to make room for Lelie I left off Moran Norris. As Scot McCloughan said, Norris should have been a Pro Bowler two years ago. Unfortunately now, the shift in the offense seems to make him significantly less useful. He'll always have a use, but in the Martz offense it might not be enough for a roster spot.