Full Training Camp Roster Breakdown for the San Francisco 49ers

Dylan DeSimone@@DeSimone80Correspondent IJuly 17, 2013

Full Training Camp Roster Breakdown for the San Francisco 49ers

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    The rising San Francisco 49ers enter the 2013 season like a shooting star. In three phases of the game—offense, defense and special teams—this team is scorching hot, appearing to be on the brink of their next world championship. 

    This is a roster laced with talent from top to bottom, but the headlining story this year will be quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who will be conducting his first training camp as a starter. This is now his football team. As a 25-year-old with less than 16 starts under his belt, it will be captivating to see how he responds to the pressure in his first full campaign.

    Yet for how good the 49ers are, it is also very much a team in transition.

    Between free agency and injuries, this team has lost four key players, which includes three true starters. By means of the open market, the 49ers will be dealing with the loss of FS Dashon Goldson, NT Isaac Sopoaga and TE Delanie Walker. Star receiver Michael Crabtree (Achilles) is also lost for a chunk of the season, per Mike Garafolo of USA Today.

    It will be a “next man up” situation in the Bay Area, as the ‘Niners will ask several young players and newcomers to stand in and make a difference.   

    The following slides contain a breakdown of the 49ers’ 90-man roster heading into training camp in Santa Clara, Calif. It will detail where every player stands at the moment, what they’ll have to do to make the roster/practice squad and where they’ll likely end up.

     

    Numbers (next to names), listed positions, as well as height and weight courtesy of the San Francisco 49ers official team website. Statistics are provided by Pro Football Reference, unless indicated otherwise. 

Quarterbacks

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    Colin Kaepernick (No. 7)

    The 49ers have taken a lot of necessary measures to clear the road for Kaepernick to ascend to the No. 1 job. After the 25-year-old dynamo capitalized on an opportunity in 2013, head coach Jim Harbaugh made sure there would not be another quarterback starting for San Francisco under his watch. While it's early, don’t be surprised if Kap enters the MVP conversation at one point this season.

    He is a threat to lead the league in all-purpose yards and touchdowns.

     

    Colt McCoy (No. 2)

    Shortly after Alex Smith was shipped off to Kansas City, the ‘Niners front office acquired a more suitable backup in McCoy, via ESPN. The former Heisman runner-up from Texas comes over after a failed three-year stint with the Browns, bringing a bleak 6-15 record as a starter with him. The difference this time around is that McCoy will get to work with Harbaugh, AKA the quarterback whisperer.

     

    Scott Tolzien (No. 3)

    With all of this chaos and general activity ensuing around the quarterback position over the past two seasons, Tolzien has been resilient, coming over from the Chargers and maintaining his roster spot. He’ll be battling to be the No. 3 once again and has potential to be future trade bait if he shows growth under Harbaugh.

    This year, Tolzien needs to look out for the seventh-round pick from USF.

     

    B.J. Daniels (No. 5)

    Out of 28 draft picks under the new regime, the 49ers made Daniels the only other quarterback outside of Kaepernick to be taken in three years. Fitting Kap's mold, the signal-caller from South Florida was an athletic all-purpose weapon. If he can benefit from the coaching he’ll receive, Daniels has a legitimate chance to make the final 53-man roster. 

Running Backs

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    Frank Gore (No. 21)

    Believe it or not, Gore is one of only three active backs in the NFL who leads his team in all-time rushing yards (Adrian Peterson, Vikings and Arian Foster, Texans). As it stands, the Inconvenient Truth needs 1,161 yards to eclipse 10,000 career yards on the ground, which would place him in an elite class of players.

    And even though he just turned 30 years old, Gore surpassed 1,200 yards in the past two seasons. He will be at the forefront of San Fran’s rushing offense in 2013. 

     

    Kendall Hunter (No. 32)

    As reliable a No. 2 back as you’ll find, Hunter returns to the 49ers for his third season as a pro. In 27 games played, the Niners’ backup tailback accrued over 1,000 yards from scrimmage and four scores. In 2012, Hunter was averaging 5.2 YPC before going down with an Achilles tendon injury.

    He is Gore’s primary reliever until proven otherwise.

     

    LaMichael James (No. 23)

    In 2010, this Oregon legend beat out Kendall Hunter for the Doak Walker award when they were both in the NCAA, averaging 152.9 yards per game that season. Now, entering his second campaign as a pro (first full 16-game schedule), James will take on a more sizable role as a rusher, pass-catcher and return specialist.

    But once again, he’ll have to directly contest with Hunter for recognition.  

     

    Anthony Dixon (No. 24)

    Since being drafted in 2010, Dixon has been Mr. Reliable, contributing in several facets during his 48-game tenure. However, No. 24’s duties at tailback—his primary position—have steadily diminished. If Dixon survives another offseason, it is because the ‘Niners cannot afford to lose another role player on the S/T unit.

     

    Marcus Lattimore (No. 38)

    In 29 games for South Carolina, Lattimore finished with 3,444 all-purpose yards, 41 touchdowns and two ACL tears. That is the rookie in a nutshell: a high, high ceiling, but definitely labeled “handle with care.” Fortunately, he was drafted to the one team that is in a position to let him recover, learn and eventually see his potential.

    Don’t expect to see Lattimore on the field this year—but don’t forget about him either.  

     

    Jewel Hampton (No. 33)

    After riding the reserve/non-football injury list in 2012 (ACL), Hampton hit the ground running this year, literally and figuratively. The second-year UDFA will have an arduous battle in camp but has been intent on making a case for himself, despite the long list of prolific runners ahead of him.

     

    D.J. Harper (No. 36) 

     At 5’9”, 211 pounds, this undrafted free agent from Boise State ran for 1,137 yards and 15 touchdowns in his final and first complete season with the Broncos. Harper, 23, played in the NCAA for six years, during which time he averaged 5.3 yards per carry. Multiple ACL injuries would limit his pre-draft exposure, but he is currently healthy and ready to compete. 

    He’ll look to make some noise as an outside runner. 

Fullbacks

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    Bruce Miller (No. 49)

    Heading into his third year in the league, Miller is one of San Francisco’s underrated players. Originally an All-Conference defensive end, the all-time sack leader for Central Florida has since made a successful conversion to fullback and is playing at an All-Pro level. He loves contact, which has made him an effective battering ram for this power-rushing attack.

    Better yet, he is developing into a viable receiving option and stalwart special teamer. Being the pure football hound that he is, Miller has developed into a top utility player.

     

    Jason Schepler (No. 45)

    During his run in the NCAA, Schepler was an effective blocking tight end, doing his best work at the line of scrimmage. As a senior for Northern Illinois in 2012, the 6’2”, 274-pound mauler led his team with 64 pancake blocks, via NIU. He will attempt to make the roster as a FB/TE and special teams contributor. 

     

    Will Tukuafu (No. 48)

    After joining the 49ers in 2011, Tukuafu has been a two-way player, performing as a fullback and defensive tackle. On top of that, he even carved out a role on special teams as a wedge blocker. Given his all-around contributions, he has proven to be fairly valuable to this team. However, the ‘Niners have brought in similar players who have a real opportunity to beat out Tukuafu for his job. He is on the bubble in 2013. 

Receivers

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    Michael Crabtree (No. 15)

    In his fourth year as a pro, the first-ever two-time Biletnikoff Award winner finally had his breakout season at the NFL level, finishing with a team-high 1,105 yards and nine touchdown grabs. Unfortunately, King Crab does not project to be available for the bulk of 2013, having sustained an Achilles tendon injury at OTAs.   

    He may return late in the year, providing SF with a boost heading into the postseason.

     

    Anquan Boldin (No. 81)

    With 10,165 receiving yards and 58 touchdowns over his illustrious NFL career, Boldin is one of the league’s most decorated wideouts. The 11-year-pro can carry the load, too. He is widely known as the fastest player in league history to hit 400 receptions (67 games), 500 receptions (80 games) and 600 receptions (98 games), per Ravens PR.

    Now, coming off a dominating playoff run that resulted in his first world title, No. 81 will be the point man for San Fran’s receiving corps in 2013.If trends are any indication, Kaepernick should be targeting Boldin quite a bit.

     

    Mario Manningham (No. 82)

    Manningham is best known for his Super Bowl heroics that landed the New York Giants their second world championship this decade. However, as a No. 3 option for most of his pro career, the former Biletnikoff Award finalist from Michigan has yet to put it all together over a 16-game season.

    It will be tough this year too, as he recovers from a season-ending knee injury (ACL, PCL). As of May, Manningham began running and cutting, but his availability for Week 1 is still hanging in the balance, via NFL.com.

     

    Kyle Williams (No. 10)

    In his fourth season (in what is a contract year), San Fran is going to lean on Williams for production in a big way. Coming out of Arizona State, No. 10 was a speed demon, clocking in the low 4.3s before the draft, via NFL Draft Scout. He also happens to be the top veteran wideout on the roster with Crabtree sidelined.

    Now partnered with a big-armed quarterback who looks downfield, Williams will finally have an opportunity to see his potential in this spread offense, à la Victor Cruz or Steve Smith. 

     

    A.J. Jenkins (No. 17)

    It is tough to profile Jenkins at the NFL level without mentioning: “first-rounder” and “zero catches.” Another way to look at his situation would be to say that he has a totally clean slate. The ‘Niners are still waiting to see what kind of player Jenkins will become at this level.

    Moreover, with Crabtree out, the 49ers will spread the ball around more than they thought was possible. This will provide the speedster from Illinois with his window of opportunity. Jenkins will be among the active on game day in what is setting up to be a defining year for the second-year receiver.

     

    Quinton Patton (No. 11)

    Coming from the Air Raid offense at Louisiana Tech, Patton is a perfect systematic fit for San Francisco’s new-look spread attack. From 2011-2012, he was one of the most productive receivers in college football, racking up 183 receptions, 2,594 yards and 24 scores in 25 games played. This fourth-round steal will compete for a prominent role right away.

     

    Ricardo Lockette (No. 18)

    This undrafted free agent from Fort Valley State—entering his third NFL season—is the lone height/weight/speed receiver on the 49ers roster. Lockette (6’2”, 211 lbs.) blazed a 4.26 40-time before the 2011 draft, which piqued the interest of scouts, thinking he had potential to be molded into a vertical threat. 

    He has two career receptions for 105 yards and a touchdown in his only two games played, which included no starts. He has an uphill battle but remains a top sleeper to make the final roster.

     

    Chuck Jacobs (No. 1)

    The 49ers acquired more speed via the undrafted free-agent wire, signing Utah State’s Chuck Jacobs. In two seasons in WAC, the wideout finished with 61 grabs, 826 yards and seven touchdowns. If the rookie can find his stride in camp, he will give Lockette a run for his money for that final WR slot. 

    However, there is a high probability he winds up on the practice squad, at best.  

     

    Marlon Moore (No. 19)

    This is the third and final ex-WAC receiver brought in by San Francisco this offseason (Patton, Jacobs). At 6’0”, 190 pounds, Moore enters his fourth season in the league and first with the ‘Niners. In 23 games played for the Dolphins (2010-2012), the Fresno State product racked up 12 catches for 244 yards and a pair of touchdowns.

     

    Kassim Osgood (No. 13)

    The motive behind this decision was to beef up the special teams coverage unit, in dire need of a rebirth. Osgood (6’5”, 220 lbs.) is an 11-year pro who has made a name for himself on special teams, being named to the Pro Bowl three times with the Chargers and Jaguars. That’s his ticket to making the final 53-man roster.

     

    Chad Hall (No. 14)

    At 5’8”, 187 pounds, Hall functioned as a practice clone for quicker slot guys like Victor Cruz, Danny Amendola and Percy Harvin in 2012. The only week he suited up was the NFC title at Atlanta—and he was not a factor on game day. It would be surprising if Hall managed to stick around for another season.

     

    Charly Martin (X)

    Shortly after releasing TE/LS Kyle Nelson, who was picked up by the Seattle Seahawks, the 49ers claimed Martin, who was waived by the team. This swap made Martin the latest addition to San Fran's roster entering camp. The 29-year-old had four catches for 42 yards in 2012. 

Tight Ends

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    Vernon Davis (No. 85)

    This man needs no introduction; he lets his Pro Bowl prestige and 4,000-plus receiving yards do the talking. Davis is one of the true leaders of this organization, right next to Patrick Willis and Frank Gore. He is also one of the few freaky hybrid TEs in this league, and may be in for career highs in 2013.

     

    Vance McDonald (No. 89)

    McDonald was one of the top-rated tight ends in 2013, which is why San Fran took them as high as they did (No. 55 overall). This 6’4”, 267-pounder was the single strongest TE at the regional combine. McDonald also has a huge catch radius and a flair for getting vertical, which provides the ‘Niners with a threatening joker tight end.  

    He will take over for Delanie Walker, pair up with No. 85 and form a one-two punch that likely takes this league by storm. Expect his addition to add a whole new dimension to what the 49ers do offensively.

     

    Garrett Celek (No. 88)

    The 25-year-old will return for his second NFL season with the 49ers. As a UDFA out of Michigan State, Celek has worked closely with Vernon Davis, trying to perfect his craft as a receiving threat. At 6’5”, 252 pounds, he has the tools to push for time on game day and may influence the coaches to use more 13 and 23 personnel.

    Celek makes the team and gives the 49ers above average depth at TE.

     

    DeMarcus Dobbs (No. 83)

    Out of the University of Georgia, Dobbs locked down a roster spot for himself after going undrafted in 2011. He has carved out a role as a two-way player, contributing at tight end and defensive end. His roster spot will be in jeopardy this year with a lot of new talent with tantalizing upside at both positions.

     

    MarQueis Gray (No. 46)

    This former Minnesota Gopher quarterback is an interesting athlete that the 49ers coaching staff will try to fashion into a utility player, per Kevin Lynch of the San Francisco Chronicle. Gray (6’4”, 250 lbs.) can work as a TE/H-back, while also lending a helping hand to Brad Seely’s rebuilding special teams unit.

    As a collegian, Gray had 2,497 yards from scrimmage and 18 touchdowns (rushing and receiving).

Offensive Tackles

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    Joe Staley (No. 74)

    The two-time All-Pro left tackle from Central Michigan is the lifeblood of this offensive line. Over the course of his career, Staley has become known as one of the most athletic edge protectors in the league, maximizing his particular skill set to lock down the weak side. He will reprise his role in 2013 and beyond.   

     

    Anthony Davis (No. 76)

    The 2010 top pick from Rutgers University is another high-caliber starter on Pro Football Focus’ No. 1-rated offensive line. Davis has registered 48 straight starts at right tackle since being drafted in 2010, showing improvement each year. He is mean, nasty and now he is as technically sound as they come.

     

    Luke Marquardt (No. 64) 

    This is the potential steal for San Fran when it comes to the undrafted free-agent wire. During the pre-draft process, the consensus was that the 6’8”, 315-pound Marquardt was the “most impressive physical specimen” of the OL group at the combine. A stress fracture in his foot caused him to miss his senior year at Azusa Pacific and fall out of the draft.

    He may ride the PUP list as a rookie and emerge as the ‘Niners’ swing tackle of the future.

     

    Carter Bykowski (No. 71)

    At 6’6”, 306 pounds, this seventh-rounder from Iowa State will be one of the top candidates competing for the backup tackle role. With Alex Boone’s taking over starting right guard, the 49ers lacked depth on the edges. Bykowski has a real chance to make the team for this reason.

     

    Kenny Wiggins (No. 69)

    The 6’6”, 314-pounder from Fresno State will be entering his second campaign with the ‘Niners. He will be mainly vying for time against Carter Bykowski in training camp, looking to retain his spot in the organization, which is now in jeopardy.

Offensive Guards

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    Mike Iupati (No. 77)

    Since coming into the league, Iupati has been top-three at his respective position but is just now getting recognized by the league. This past season (his third in the NFL), the mauling interior lineman was named a first-team All-Pro. He will continue to build on his strengths and eradicate his weaknesses as the 49ers starting LG.

     

    Alex Boone (No. 75)

    The 49ers rolled the dice on Boone in 2012, and boy, did it pay off. He won the right guard job in camp…and then some. In his first year as a starter, the fourth-year pro was rated by Pro Football Focus as one of the top guards in the NFL. Now, the word around the league is that Boone has since added 15 pounds of muscle this offseason, per Taylor Price of the team's official website.

    In his sophomore campaign, Boone may fully establish his worth to the team and earn a new deal.

     

    Daniel Kilgore (No. 67)

    In all honesty, since Trent Baalke has been a high-ranking personnel executive, the 49ers’ batting average has been pretty good when it comes to procuring O-linemen. Seeing as how Kilgore was the first OL guy taken in the Harbaugh era, one has to think there is a plan for him.

    In theory, No. 67 will be the primary backup along the interior line, while potentially continuing his development as Colin Kaepernick’s center of the future. Lest we forget, it is a contract year for 34-year-old Jonathan Goodwin after all.

     

    Joe Looney (No. 78)

    Big Joe Looney is right there behind Kilgore. The fourth-round pick from Wake Forest is yet another developmental O-lineman the 49ers invested in. If and when Alex Boone and/or Jonathan Goodwin move on, Looney has to be ready to go. We should find out more about what he brings long-term in this year’s training camp.

     

    Al Netter (No. 65)

    The 6’6”, 310-pound Netter carries over from the practice squad last year after making an impression as an undrafted free agent. The Northwestern alum and California native will compete for backup guard duties but likely misses the final 53. If he can stay on the practice squad, it will be a win for Netter.

     

    Patrick Omameh (No. 66) 

    Omameh is a newcomer this year but seems to like his chances of making the roster after signing as a UDFA. The first-team All-Big 10 lineman is a Michigan product—a man after Harbaugh’s own heart. At 6’4”, 305 pounds, Omameh has ideal dimensions to play at guard or center.

     

    Adam Snyder (No. 68)

    After a brief stint with the NFC West rival Arizona Cardinals, Snyder returns home to the team that drafted him (No. 94 overall in 2005). The nine-year pro brings experience, familiarity, size and position versatility, which gives him an edge over several other competing backups.

    There is a solid chance he clinches a roster spot in 2013, operating as the swing tackle and backup guard/center.

     

    Wayne Tribue (No. 62)

    The 23-year-old guard from Temple is entering his second NFL season, having spent time in Denver and New Orleans as an undrafted rookie. Tribue is a long shot to make the roster; still, there is a job to be won, and the ‘Niners play no favorites. 

Centers

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    Jonathan Goodwin (No. 59)

    The 49ers added a lot of moxie at center when they signed the former Pro Bowler and Super Bowl champion from the Saints. Since his arrival in 2011, the play from Goodwin has improved, as he has become more comfortable in the system and with his line mates.

    Although he is back to elite form, Goodwin will be a 35-year-old unrestricted free agent after this season.

     

    Sherman Carter (No. 60)

    The 6’3”, 304-pound rookie was a three-year starter for Tennessee State, functioning as the heartbeat of their offensive line. Carter knocked guys off the ball and created lanes for the runners, which is what San Fran loves out of their OL. He will compete for a backup role along the interior line in 2013.

    The practice squad may be in his future.

Defensive Tackles

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    Justin Smith (No. 94)

    The ‘Niners premier defensive tackle recently inked a two-year extension on June 19 to finish his career in the Bay Area, via Matt Maiocco on Twitter. Smith is one of the single-most dominant defensive players in the NFL. Few players in the league have as profound an effect on their respective units.

    The question is: Is it “Super Bowl or Bust” for No. 94 this year?

     

    Glenn Dorsey (No. 90)

    Coming out of the college ranks, this former LSU Tiger was one of the most highly regarded defensive prospects of this generation. In 2008, Kansas City made Dorsey the No. 5 overall pick in the draft, hoping to see results from the penetrating D-lineman.

    Ultimately, he failed to live up to expectations as a double-threat (run-stuffer and pass-rusher). Now 27 years of age, Dorsey will have a chance to revitalize his career with line coach Jim Tomsula and the 49ers. He’ll compete for the starting nose guard position, and in all likelihood, he wins. 

     

    Ray McDonald (No. 91)

    The No. 97 overall pick from 2007 blazed the trail for backups willing to put the work in with the hopes of one day becoming a starter. McDonald was a rotational player for four years (2007-2010) before earning an extension and a top spot on San Francisco’s prestigious defensive line.

    He will return for his third consecutive season as the starting left DT in 2013.

     

    Ian Williams (No. 93)

    The thick tackle from Notre Dame was one of only two players in 2011 to make the ‘Niners final roster as an undrafted free agent. Williams also managed to stick around and in March, he signed a two-year deal to remain with the team. The 6’1”, 305-pounder is gearing up for a competition with Glenn Dorsey but will likely play second fiddle, rotating in as a zero-technique lineman this year.  

     

    Tank Carradine (No. 95)

    The organization has big plans for the Florida State product, who projects as the long-term successor for Justin Smith. During his time in the NCAA, Carradine (6’4”, 276 lbs.) was an absolute terror, racking up 118 tackles, 21 TFL and 16.5 sacks in only 24 games played for the ‘Noles.

    And with his rare physical dimensions, the consensus first-round talent can be that dual threat as a pass-rushing end or a block-absorbing lineman. Carradine brings a world of upside to the ‘Niners in the long run.  

     

    Quinton Dial (No. 71)

    At 6’6”, 304 pounds, Dial might be the easiest of San Francisco’s defensive linemen to pick out in a crowd. The rookie fifth-rounder won a BCS National Championship under Nick Saban at Alabama, so he is familiar with playing for an organization that sets the standard high.

    While Dial is raw, he is a mountain of a man and is in an optimal environment to hone his skills and become a powering D-lineman. Believe that San Fran wants to see him step up in camp and win a spot on their final 53. 

     

    Tony Jerod-Eddie (No. 63)

    This former DT from Texas A&M made some noise in training camp last year, bouncing around between the 53-man roster and the practice squad as a UDFA. He only played in one game in 2012 and may now be at risk of losing his spot to new faces with much higher ceilings.

     

    Lawrence Okoye (No. 78)

    They say the NFL is full of world-class athletes, but very few are bona fide Olympians. Shortly after the 2013 draft, the ‘Niners inked the 21-year-old Okoye, the British record-holder for discus. He is 6’6”, 304 pounds of straight muscle—bearing hips that would make a Clydesdale jealous.

    From a physical standpoint, he has a lot to work with.

    However, the catch is that he has zero football experience, which makes him a tough call for the final 53-man roster. Fortunately, the 49ers can stick him on the practice squad if he is not ready, and Okoye can tell other teams “no thanks” if they try to claim him.

     

    Lamar Divens (No. 92)

    While Divens is a new name in the Bay Area, he is not a rookie. The UDFA first entered the league in 2008 out of Tennessee State, having played with the Chargers, Ravens, Buccaneers and Titans. At 6’3”, 340 pounds, Divens is a huge clogging D-lineman still waiting for his opportunity. 

Outside Linebackers

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    Aldon Smith (No. 99) 

    With careful pre-draft evaluations and steady grooming over two years, the 49ers have landed one of the greatest rush linebackers in the NFL. No. 99 is dominant edge presence, racking up 33.5 sacks in 32 games (16 starts). He set several league/franchise records and is only going to improve. 

    Look for the 23-year-old Smith to take his game to new heights in his second season as the starting ROLB.

     

    Ahmad Brooks (No. 55)

    Playing alongside three first-team All-Pros is an easy way to fly under the radar. But make no mistake, Brooks belongs right beside Nos. 99, 52 and 53. He is a balanced LB, bringing a presence against the run and pass.

    The seventh-year pro will be entering his third campaign as the ‘Niners starting LOLB.   

     

    Parys Haralson (No. 98)

    A triceps tear to the eight-year pro in the 2012 preseason made it easy on San Fran to transition to Aldon Smith as the full-time starter. Haralson, 29, will return to the 49ers after restructuring his deal, and should have the right of way to the No. 3 OLB job, via Associated Press.

     

    Corey Lemonier (No. 96) 

    While Haralson has the veteran edge, the rookie pass-rush maven from Auburn expects to give him a run for his money. As a collegian, Lemonier racked up 17 sacks and 24 tackles for loss in 32 games, via Sports Reference. The 49ers traded up to No. 88 overall to snag him, which indicates that they’ve got plans.

    Lemonier has an opening to grow into a situational pass-rusher, akin to Aldon Smith in his rookie year. This could give the ‘Niners a whole extra dimension up front, providing depth and several skilled defensive weapons.

     

    Cam Johnson (No. 50)

    Oftentimes, the windows to prove yourself at the NFL level are so small; Johnson is a perfect example of that. He is going to have a tough time cracking this roster with four starting-caliber OLBs ahead of him. Through no fault of his own (knee surgery), last year’s seventh-round DE from Virginia suffered a setback and may find himself as the odd man out in 2013.

     

    Dan Skuta (No. 51)

    After spending four seasons in Cincinnati, Skuta comes to the 49ers as an established league veteran and S/T ace. He entered the league as a UDFA from Grand Valley State in 2009 and became a core special teams player, piling up a team-high 17 tackles on the unit a season ago.

    The ‘Niners have their fingers crossed for Blake Costanzo 2.0. 

Inside Linebackers

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    Patrick Willis (No. 52)

    This man is the mecca of linebacking in the NFL, and most will say it is not even close. As NFL insider Ian Rapoport perfectly articulates, Willis is the “blood and guts” of the San Francisco defense. He also happens to be the top sideline-to-sideline ILB in the league. Now in his seventh season, No. 52 is entering the years where experience meets talent, and the game slows down.

    Watch out for Uber Willis in 2013!

     

    NaVorro Bowman (No. 53)

    One All-Pro begets another—at least that is how it worked out for San Francisco. Bowman will enter his third season as a starter in 2013, looking like a carbon copy of Willis with slightly better coverage skills. In the past two seasons together, the duo has piled up a cumulative 519 tackles.

    Call it premature, but if this wrecking crew continues its path of destruction, folks are going to start talking about Canton.

     

    Nick Moody (No. 54)

    The 49ers drafted Moody at the top of the sixth round at No. 180 overall. Out of Florida State, the 6’1”, 236-pound safety turned linebacker projects to be a stalwart special-teamer for Brad Seely’s renovating unit. If he can learn to hit from the aforementioned All-Pros, and combine that with his athleticism, Moody will be a valued commodity sooner rather than later.

     

    Darius Fleming (No. 58) 

    The 2011 fifth-rounder tore his ACL on Day 1 of minicamp as a rookie and never got to see the field. While the ‘Niners added talent at the position, they are not ready to write Fleming off. In fact, defensive coordinator Vic Fangio kicked him from outside to inside linebacker to give him a better shot of making the roster.

    The switch plays to Fleming’s skill set, allowing him and Nick Moody to succeed departed backup ILBs Larry Grant and Tavares Gooden. But by no means is this a sure thing, especially with Skuta on board.

     

    Nate Stupar (No. 45)

    Stupar hails from the East Coast, having played four years at Penn State (2008-2011). In his stint with the Nittany Lions, the linebacker ran down 205 tackles in 44 games (16 starts). He even played two seasons with San Francisco’s own NaVorro Bowman, which included appearances in the Rose Bowl and Capital One Bowl.  

     

    Michael Wilhoite (No. 57)

    Out of Washburn University, Wilhoite signed on as an undrafted free agent in 2011. He remained with the team into its Super Bowl run last year, appearing in eight games (including playoffs). His roster spot is now in jeopardy, but the practice squad is always an option.

Cornerbacks

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    Carlos Rogers (No. 22)

    The 32-year-old veteran CB returns as San Fran’s top-listed cover man, though he was not much of a boundary corner in 2012, allowing a 115.6 rating to QBs when targeted outside the nickel (86.7 in slot). The depth chart can be deceiving when it comes to the defensive backfield. 

    However, since joining the ‘Niners in 2011, no player has taken more defensive snaps than Rogers. The Pro Bowler has recorded 111 tackles, seven interceptions and 26 pass deflections in that time. He will continue to build on his career with San Fran this year.   

     

    Tarell Brown (No. 25)

    In his second year as a starter in 2012, Brown played 1,032 defensive snaps, third most behind Carlos Rogers and Donte Whitner. While on the field, Brown did not allow a single touchdown in coverage all season and was the most efficient tackling corner in the NFL.

    By those accounts, the 28-year-old corner may be one of the most underrated players in the league today.

     

    Chris Culliver (No. 29)

    Up until Justin Smith’s injury in Week 15, Culliver had allowed the least amount of yards (256) for cornerbacks who played 500-plus snaps, per Jeff Deeney of PFF. When the ‘Niners defense was at full strength, No. 29 was as good as any lockdown corner in the league. 

    Now in his third season—and coming up on a new contract—Cully will again have an opportunity to take his game to the next level.

     

    Nnamdi Asomugha (X)

    After a calamitous two-year stint in Philly, Asomugha packed his bags for California, hoping to reboot his once illustrious career. 

    He got away from his defensive roots with the Eagles, which struggled mightily on that side of the ball. Now back in the Bay Area—with this defense—Asomugha has a chance to return to his All-Pro form and give the ‘Niners four top-tier corners. However, he will have to prove that his regression was a fluke.

     

    Perrish Cox (No. 20)

    The 6’0”, 198-pound corner will be entering his third NFL season in 2013 and second with the 49ers. Cox is an athletic defensive back who has a history with secondary coach Ed Donatell, having started for him in Denver. At 26 years old, Cox will have to show promise for the future if he hopes to stick around.

    Look for him to develop and prove his worth in the slot.

     

    Tramaine Brock (No. 26)

    Since signing with the ‘Niners as a UDFA in 2010, Brock has registered 25 tackles and two interceptions in 28 games played (zero starts). San Fran would be hard-pressed to cut him knowing he can contribute elsewhere. Brock will be right in the middle, competing with Nnamdi Asomugh and Perrish Cox, as well as several talented newcomers looking to overthrow him.

     

    Marcus Cooper (No. 33)

    From Rutgers, Cooper (6’2”, 192 lbs.) is a lean, long-bodied corner with a physical prowess for the game. He has done a brilliant job closing on the ball-carrier, which makes him a fit for this defense, stylistically. If Cooper can show value on special teams—as well as promise at CB—he is a sleeper to make the roster.

     

    Darryl Morris (No. 38)

    This undrafted free agent CB from Texas State is an interesting pickup by SF. At 5’10”, 188 pounds, Morris is a nimble defensive back who played one season in the WAC, finishing with 56 tackles, four interceptions and nine pass breakups. He will be lucky to earn an invitation to the practice squad.

     

    Lowell Rose (No. 40)

    At 6’1”, 192 pounds, this ex-Tulsa cornerback is yet another player who looks the part. In his last two seasons in the college ranks, Rose registered 91 tackles, three picks and 22 deflections. He has upside as a developmental player, but again, will have to contribute on S/T right away if he hopes to stick around.

Safeties

13 of 14

    Eric Reid (X)

    Ladies and Gentlemen: your 2013 first-round selection. Reid (6’1”, 213 lbs.) was a renowned thumper in the SEC for one of college’s most revered defenses. Now, as an NFL rookie, the ‘Niners are counting on the No. 18 overall pick to fill in for departed All-Pro free safety Dashon Goldson.

    No easy task, but if not him, then who?

     

    Donte Whitner (No. 31)

    Coming off his first Pro Bowl nod, Whitner is entering what may be his third and final season in the Bay Area. While the starting strong safety is not perfect (i.e., lapses in coverage), he captains the deep part of the field, is a tone-setter and one of the fiercest hitters in the NFL.

    And for the 49ers, a big hit can be as momentum-shifting as a takeaway. Whitner, 28, will be playing for a contract in 2013.

     

    C.J. Spillman (No. 27)

    The undrafted free-agent safety from Marshall University will enter his fifth NFL season this year. Spillman (6’0”, 199 lbs.) has 40 tackles in a San Francisco uniform, having established a presence on specials teams coverage. He will have an inordinate amount of competition in training camp this year but remains a favorite to preserve his spot as a top backup safety and S/T stud. 

     

    Craig Dahl (No. 43)

    For an under-the-radar signing, Dahl, 28, has produced steadily over his six-year career, which included stops with the Giants and Rams. From 2007-2012 (2008 excluded), the 6’1”, 212-pound DB was a busybody, racking up 321 tackles, three sacks, four picks and 12 deflections.

    While he is not expected to start, Dahl is a prospective leader for Brad Seely’s special teams in 2013.

     

    Darcel McBath (No. 28)

    Instead of bringing in Charles Woodson to play safety, the 49ers elected to re-sign the 27-year-old McBath. The 6’1”, 198-pounder hails from Texas Tech where he played with Michael Crabtree. McBath was the No. 48 overall pick in 2009 (Broncos), where he played DB for then-coach Ed Donatell. 

    Now back in the Bay Area for a second consecutive year, reunited with the coach who brought him into the league, the former second-round pick is looking to cement his spot on the 49ers roster.

     

    Michael Thomas (No. 36)

    In 44 games for Stanford—which included three seasons under Jim Harbaugh—the 5’11”, 182-pound safety accrued 189 tackles, two sacks and four interceptions. Coming off a big senior season, Thomas signed as a UDFA and spent time on the practice squad.

    In his sophomore campaign, he will have an opportunity to compete for that last safety spot.

     

    Trenton Robinson (No. 30)

    Unlike Thomas, Michigan State’s Trenton Robinson was actually drafted by San Fran (Round 6, Pick 180). The Big 10 stud finished his four-year career with 229 tackles, nine interceptions and 21 pass breakups. He will try to make a significant leap from year one to year two.

     

    Raymond Ventrone (No. 41)

    Ventrone, 30, is your classic journeyman football player. Since entering the league as an undrafted free agent in 2005, he has listed with the Patriots, Jets and Browns. As it turned out, Eric Mangini—now 49ers senior offensive consultant—can be linked to all four of Ventrone’s pro teams.

    He will have a chance to make this squad, especially if he proves his worth on S/T. 

Specialists

14 of 14

    Andy Lee, P (No. 4)

    The uncontested All-Pro punter will return this season, bringing continuity to the ‘Niners special teams game. In May of 2012, the 49ers re-signed Lee to a six-year deal through 2018, per Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle. Two seasons ago, he finished with the third-highest punting averaging in league history (50.9 yards).

    Andy Lee is one of the best in the game and at this rate, will go down as one of the great players in franchise history.

     

    Phil Dawson, K (No. 9)

    After experiencing career-highs in 2012, Dawson is looking like the best place kicker in pro football right now. He went 29-of-31 from the field (93.5 percent), including 7-of-7 from 50-plus yards out. The 38-year-old All-Pro is in a winning situation for the first time in his distinguished pro career.

    Dawson figures to plug in and correct the enigma that plagued the field goal unit last season.

     

    Brian Jennings, LS (No. 86)

    For 13 seasons in the NFL, Jennings has done his job effortlessly and without fail. With legs like Joe Nedney, Andy Lee and David Akers, the Pro Bowl long snapper has provided consistency for this team, putting his guys in a position to succeed each and every season.

    In the NFL, it is the little things that count, and in that regard, Jennings is valuable. 

     

    Kevin McDermott, LS (No. 47)

    B/R's Matt Miller, also of NFL Draft Scout, had the UCLA long snapper as the No. 15-rated player at his position coming out. The ‘Niners signed McDermott as an undrafted free agent this offseason, but he is a long shot to make the roster. Again, outside of the coverage unit, San Fran’s core special teamers are set.

     

     

    Dylan DeSimone is the San Francisco 49ers Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. A former NFL journalist and fantasy football writer for SB Nation, Niners Nation and SB Nation Bay Area, Dylan now writes for B/R.

    To talk football with Dylan, follow him on Twitter @DeSimone80.