2016 NFL Roster Projections:
San Francisco 49ers
QB/RB/FB WR/TE OL/ST
QB Starter: Colin Kaepernick
Backups: Blaine Gabbert and Jeff Driskel
Although Colin Kaepernick did not have a great year by any means, the 49ers are banking on a rebound from him, literally. The investment means, although they would save almost $8.5 million this year, they would have to eat tens of millions of dollars, an unwise investment. Gabbert wasn't terrible after becoming the starter last season and is on a cheap deal for a former top-10 pick. Driskel will look to develop as the 3rd stringer in 2016.
RB Starter: Carlos Hyde
Backups: Mike Davis, Kelvin Taylor, and DuJuan Harris
Cut: Shaun Draughn and Jarryd Hayne
Carlos Hyde continued to show his workhorse capabilities post-Frank Gore and should see increased numbers, even behind an offensive line that has lost Mike Iupati and Alex Boone in recent years. Davis will look to get heavy and see carries behind Hyde. Taylor and Harris will look to get occasional carries.
FB Starter: None
Cut: Bruce Miller
Chip Kelly is not a fan of fullbacks and Miller's play in recent years has not been encouraging enough to change that trend. Savings of $1 million won't hurt either.
WR Starters: Torrey Smith and Quinton Patton
Backups: Aaron Burbridge*, Devon Cajuste*, Eric Rogers*, and DeAndre Smelter
Cut: Bruce Ellington
Smith and Patton represent new speed threats post-Anquan Boldin. Rookies make up the rest of the wide looks for Kaepernick, with Ellington not doing enough to prove they should stick around.
TE Starters: Garrett Celek and Blake Bell
Backup: Busta Anderson
Cut: Vance McDonald
After a lackluster 2015 for McDonald, I have youth prevailing over draft status. Celek played well in his limited time to warrant a new extension, which means he is arguably the #1 TE. Bell and Anderson, now sophomores, will compete to see time at the other spot whenever Chip chooses not to use 3 WRs.
LT: Joe Staley
LG: Zane Beadles
C: Andrew Tiller
RG: Joshua Garnett*
RT: Fahn Cooper*
Backups: John Theus*, Ian Silberman, Brandon Thomas*, and Trent Brown
Cuts: Daniel Kilgore, Erik Pears, and Marcus Martin
Another year of transition outside of Staley for the 49ers O-Line. Beadles comes back west from Jacksonville while the team traded up to nab Garnett late in the 1st round. I have Tiller tentatively moving to C, but this spot could change at any time. RT is another spot for competition, as I could see Trent Brown easily beating Cooper out.
K: Phil Dawson
P: Bradley Pinion
LS: Kyle Nelson
None of these three have any real competition, so I can't see any of them changing at this point, unless Dawson is swapped for a trade piece like Caleb Sturgis of the Eagles, for instance. Pinion and Nelson are fine for another season.
DL LB CB/S
DT Starter: Ian Williams
Backups: Tony Jerod-Eddie, Mike Purcell, Kaleb Ramsey*
Ian Williams had a breakout 2015 and would have been paid much more substantially if it wasn't for a necessary surgery
DE Starters: Arik Armstead* and Darnell Dockett
Backups: Tank Carradine and Kaleb Ramsey*
Cuts: Tony Jerod-Eddie
Now that Justin Smith officially announced his retirement, drafting Armstead is justified. He will team up with former All-Pro Darnell Dockett, who missed last year with his longtime Cardinals. Carradine hopes to bring his once-1st round pedigree into justification, as his performance hasn't yet dictated that. Ramsey missed all of 2014 with an injury, but as a draft pick, he will be given a chance to prove himself.
ILB Starters: NaVorro Bowman and Michael Wilhoite
Cuts: Nick Bellore, Desmond Bishop, Nick Moody, Philip Wheeler
After dealing with the disheartening retirements of Pro Bowler rookie Chris Borland and All-Pro Patrick Willis, the 49ers are left with Bowman, who missed all of last season after an injury in the 2013 playoffs, and veteran Wilhoite, whose performance being thrown into the starting lineup was scattered. Unfortunately, the depth issues at the position were not addressed and the backup veteran options were not good enough to make the team in my opinion.
OLB Starters: Aaron Lynch and Aldon Smith
Backups: Ahmad Brooks and Eli Harold*
Cut: Corey Lemonier
Another rookie on the 49er defense that made a huge first impression was Aaron Lynch, who took advantage of Ahmad Brooks' hissyfits and poor play to take his role as a starter. Brooks, as much as the team would like to be rid of his headaches, owe him too much guaranteed money and need a presence rushing the QB. Harold was another very solid value pick in the 3rd round, somebody who I thought could have possibly went 1st round. He doesn't have to be rushed into action, but will play.
CB Starters: Chris Cook and Dontae Johnson
Backups: Leon McFadden, Keith Reaser*, and Kenneth Acker*
Cut: Tramaine Brock, Marcus Cromartie, and Shareece Wright
A position where I do not agree with the experts, CB is a clear area of need and one where I could see San Fran claiming some players off of other teams when roster cuts are made. Johnson, Reaser, and Acker are 2014 late draft picks who will be pressed into action while McFadden is a 2013 3rd rounder who made a good impression after failing to do so in Cleveland. This needs a clear overhaul.
SS Starter: Antoine Bethea
FS Starter: Eric Reid
Backups: Jaquiski Tartt*, Jimmie Ward, Craig Dahl, L.J. McCray
The 49ers have spent one of their first two picks on a safety (Reid in 2013, Ward in 2014, Tartt in 2015) in the last three years, leading to an open competition opposite veteran Antoine Bethea. Reid, as the relative veteran and highest-drafted of the three, should be given the first shot, although he and Ward did not play well last year. McCray is a special-teams ace and Dahl could see some time as a LB in certain schemes.