The San Francisco 49ers wrapped up their first week of preseason action last week, and after a day off on Tuesday, they'll be back preparing for Sunday's game against the Denver Broncos. That gives us some time to assess where things stand. On Monday, we took a look at some winners and losers from Week 1. Today, we move on to a 53-man roster projection.
The 49ers 53-man roster projection is not an easy one this year. The team is incredibly deep, but the real issue is the numerous temporary exceptions that need to be made. Whether it be suspensions, injuries, or veteran contracts, there are players that will not be on the 49ers 53-man roster heading into Week 1, but will probably be on the roster at some later point in the season.
The odds are pretty good Aldon Smith will face a suspension to start the season. It remains to be seen how long it will be, but I don't think anybody expects him back for Week 1. For now, I have four outside linebackers in Ahmad Brooks, Corey Lemonier, Dan Skuta, and Aaron Lynch. I don't know if they will keep five when Smith gets back from his suspension, but those four seem reasonable for now.
There are eight players on the NFI and PUP lists, and there are question marks still surrounding all of them. For the purposes of this 53-man projection, I decided to list Ian Williams with the defensive tackles. I really think he will be back for Week 1. Well, I think he'll be back in time where the 49ers will not want to sit him through the minimum six weeks required for the PUP list.
Other than that, I have no idea what to expect with the rest of the players. Marcus Lattimore remains a question mark, and there is no indication where he is at heading into Week 2 of the preseason. I would not be surprised if he was activated by the start of the season, but I also would not be surprised if he remained on the NFI list. I just have no idea, so I leave him on the list. And of course, that in turn creates questions at running back.
If Lattimore is not ready for the start of the season, do the 49ers in turn keep a guy like Alfonso Smith? He is not a spectacular running back, but he supposedly can block fairly well, and could potentially just be an emergency option. Gore and Hyde would be the 1-2 punch, with LaMichael James potentially mixed in somehow, but would there be an emergency option? If they did that, I could see them releasing either Craig Dahl or Raymond Ventrone. The team is getting Jimmie Ward time at safety, and Dontae Johnson time as the personal protector. Ventrone handled that role when Andy Lee was punting, while Johnson handled it during Colton Schmidt's punts. The more brazen move would probably involve removing one of those two, but I am just not sure which one it would be. Any suggestions?
Garrett Celek is reportedly dealing with some kind of disc issue in his back. Derek Carrier did some solid things on Thursday, and maybe the 49ers decide to give him some run for the first couple months. The 49ers know what they get from Celek, so they could sit on him for six weeks on the Reserve/PUP, and re-assess the situation at that point.
Brandon Lloyd and Kassim Osgood are two guys who could contribute to the 2014 San Francisco 49ers, but my guess is neither makes the initial opening roster. Last year, the 49ers released Kassim Osgood at the end of camp, and then signed him following Week 1. Had Osgood made the Week 1 roster, his contract would have been guaranteed for the season. By releasing him and then re-signing him after Week 1, the 49ers could basically take it week-to-week with him.
There are several areas that I know people will take issue with on this projection. Plenty will prefer Josh Johnson over Blaine Gabbert. Alex Boone's absence opens the door for some extra space on the offensive line.
On the defensive side of the ball, I have 7 defensive linemen, and 7 cornerbacks. For the defensive linemen, I could see them carrying an extra guy with Williams getting back to 100 percent. As for the cornerbacks, I'm honestly not sure what to make of that group. I could see Cox missing out if Jimmie Ward and Darryl Morris, but it's hard to look past his veteran presence. Any thoughts on that group?
QB (2): Colin Kaepernick, Blaine Gabbert
RB (3): Frank Gore, Carlos Hyde, LaMichael James
FB (1): Bruce Miller
WR (5): Michael Crabtree, Anquan Boldin, Stevie Johnson, Quinton Patton, Bruce Ellington
TE (3): Vernon Davis, Vance McDonald, Derek Carrier
OT (3): Joe Staley, Anthony Davis, Jonathan Martin
OG (3): Mike Iupati, Joe Looney, Adam Snyder
C (2): Daniel Kilgore, Marcus Martin
DL (7): Justin Smith, Ray McDonald, Ian Williams, Tony Jerod-Eddie, Quinton Dial, Demarcus Dobbs, Tank Carradine
OLB (4): Ahmad Brooks, Corey Lemonier, Dan Skuta, Aaron Lynch
ILB (5): Patrick Willis, Michael Wilhoite, Nick Moody, Chris Borland, Blake Costanzo
CB (7): Tramaine Brock, Chris Culliver, Perrish Cox, Chris Cook, Jimmie Ward, Darryl Morris, Dontae Johnson
FS (2): Eric Reid, Craig Dahl
SS (3): Antoine Bethea, C.J. Spillman, Raymond Ventrone
K (1): Phil Dawson
P (1): Andy Lee
LOS (1): Kevin McDermott
Reserve/Did Not Report (1): Alex Boone
Suspended (1): Aldon Smith
PUP (3): NaVorro Bowman, Garrett Celek, Kaleb Ramsey
NFI (4): Trey Millard, Brandon Thomas, Keith Reaser, Marcus Lattimore
IR, or short term IR (2): Kendall Hunter, Glenn Dorsey
Practice Squad (8): S James McCray, DL Lawrence Okoye, QB McLeod Bethel-Thompson, CB Kenneth Acker, OG Ryan Seymour, OT Carter Bykowski, TE Asante Cleveland, DT Mike Purcell