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Projecting the 49ers 53-man roster #1

FOOCH'S NOTE: Typo on my part.  I listed 54 guys by accident.  I've decided to subtract Curtis Taylor at this point.  Sfgfan made a good point that with Mark Roman working out at both FS and SS they'll have some flexibility there and no need for a fifth safety.

Over the last couple months, people have begun rolling out their 53-man roster projections.  We had kiyoshi rolling out an immediate post-draft depth chart comparison to 2008.  That was followed by sam23 with the impressively early projection.  I believe there have been some more, so feel free to post them in here, or link to them.  Up until now I've been posting projections at each position as an exercise to start squaring away the last few roster spots.  The first 40-45 spots are fairly easy to determine.  It's those last 8-13 that are a toss-up.

Last year I rolled out my first 53-man roster projection in early June.  Things ended up busy enough this year that we've held off on the roll-out until only a few weeks before training camp.  As we did last year, the second roster projection will be shortly after the first preseason game and the second will come just before the final preseason game.  And don't forget that we'll have a practice squad projection coming soon as well.  It's only slightly more useful than projecting the 2010 draft in August 2009, but what are you gonna do, right?  Anyways, onto the projection.

QB (3): Shaun Hill, Alex Smith, Nate Davis
RB (34): Frank Gore, Glen Coffee, Michael Robinson, Kory Sheets
FB (1): Moran Norris
WR (6): Isaac Bruce, Brandon Jones, Josh Morgan, Jason Hill, Michael Crabtree, Arnaz Battle
TE (3): Vernon Davis, Delanie Walker, Bear Pascoe
LT (2): Joe Staley, Barry Sims
LG (1): David Baas
C (2): Eric Heitmann, Cody Wallace
RG (2): Chilo Rachal, Tony Wragge
RT (2): Marvel Smith, Adam Snyder

DE (5): Justin Smith, Kentwan Balmer, Demetric Evans, Isaac Sopoaga, Ray McDonald***
DT (1): Aubrayo Franklin
OLB (3): Manny Lawson, Parys Haralson, Jay Moore
ILB (5): Patrick Willis, Takeo Spikes, Jeff Ulbrich, Scott McKillop, Ahmad Brooks
CB (5): Nate Clements, Dre Bly, Tarell Brown, Shawntae Spencer, Marcus Hudson
FS (2): Dashon Goldson, Mark Roman
SS (2): Michael Lewis, Reggie Smith, Curtis Taylor

Special Teams
K: Joe Nedney
P: Andy Lee
LS: Brian Jennings
KR/PR: Allen Rossum

Last 5 on: Jay Moore, Ahmad Brooks, Curtis Taylor, Kory Sheets, Arnaz Battle

First 5 off: Ricky Jean-Francois, Dominique Zeigler, Thomas Clayton, Alex Boone, Justin Roland

***If McDonald starts the regular season on the PUP list, Ricky Jean-Francois takes this spot

After the jump I provide an overview of these projections, along with a look at the numerous bubble spots.  After you've read that over, feel free to tear me a new one on some of these selections.

As should be expected, there are several guys I've put on this list that are on very shaky ground.  I'd like to make a quick clarification.  I have Aubrayo Franklin listed as the only defensive tackle.  That will most certainly not be the case once the season starts, but I think it would be some of the other primary defensive ends (Sopoaga and Balmer) spelling Franklin at times.  Thus, I leave them at their traditional position.

The bubble is really where it's all at.  As I said before, the last 10 or so spots can be rather dicey, and the last 3 or 4, even more so.  I took a look back at our various roster projections to see what people were thinking about some of these bubble spots.  Many of you might be surprised to see Battle on my 53-man roster.  I was a bit surprised myself, as I actually voted that neither would be on the roster way back when.  However, when I got down to the end, I had some spots open and I think Battle's special teams contributions could very well carry the day.  Of course, that also qualifies as one of my two or three most tenuous picks.

Another spot where I really had to think was the last offensive lineman on the roster.  For now, I've placed Barry Sims on the roster and Alex Boone as one of the first five left off.  Based on our previous poll, I know a lot of people will disagree with me at this point.  I actually had Alex Boone initially, given the undeniable talent this youngster has.  However, there are two reasons I switched Boone and Sims.  I think the team will go with a veteran backup at tackle and Alex Boone has practice squad eligibility.  Sims was not good last year, but if an emergency arises and Joe Staley has to leave the field, I think the team wants a veteran on hand.  Of course, if Alex Boone impresses in training camp, that could be one of the first changes I make on the second projection.

Running back is another position that will certainly generate some controversy.  After the first 3 guys, will Kory Sheets make the roster, will Thomas Clayton make the roster, or will neither?  I decided to go with Sheets in this little exercise.  People are high on him as a potential kick returner, which would certainly give him a leg up against Clayton.  Also, given the potential he could bring as a running back, I see more reason to keep him than a guy like Micheal Spurlock.  There are plenty of Clayton supporters (I've been one of them), but I'm slowly coming to accept the fact that we may just not see him in a 49ers uniform in the regular season anytime soon.  Training camp might change that, so we'll see.

Ahmad Brooks and Jay Moore are both larks for me at this point.  I was getting close to 53 and like the talent both could bring to the table.  Of the two of them, Moore is probably more likely to not make the 53-man given his practice squad eligibility.  I think Moore is probably the #1 person most likely to be removed from this list come early August.  It just pains me so.

Why Nate Davis over Damon Huard?  Well, first, I see no way Davis makes it through waivers onto the practice squad.  Second, Damon Huard may be a great guy for all I know, but what does he really bring to the table?  This team does not need a Trent Dilfer type mentor at this point.  And as far as upside off the bench?  Well, Huard doesn't bring that either.  He's certainly not an awful QB, but there's just not enough there worth hanging on to.

Early thoughts for projection #2
Consider this a general summary of changes I would not be surprised by in the least.  Jay Moore and Ahmad Brooks could certainly practice/play their way off this list.  Kory Sheets and Arnaz Battle could both certainly do the same.  Really anybody in the last 5 on or first 5 off could play their way on or off the list.  Most of the free world finds preseason football completely useless.  The rest of us realize how much value there is in these games.  Well, at least 3 of them.  Last season the preseason saw a guy like Josh Morgan played himself into contention (injury issues aside), while a guy like Dontarrious Thomas played himself off the team.

So, where am I way off?  If you want to roll out an entire 53-man roster projection, fire away in the comments.  If you just want to point out differences, that works too.  Just a heads-up to post them here as opposed to a new FanPost for now.  For references, check out the ESPN Depth Chart and the team site roster list.