The 49ers released three players today - WR Bakari Grant, LB Brandon Long and CB Patrick Stoudamire - to get down to the 75-man limit. They have to waive another 22 on Saturday. Here is my prediction for the 53-man roster. Crunching the numbers isn't easy, especially when you consider that eight players must be inactive each week. I'm having particular trouble with offensive line and outside linebacker, and I left myself some wiggle room in those areas. Margin of error +/- 53 players.
(In: Alex Smith, David Carr, Nate Davis)
Comment: This is any easy one. Mike Singletary confirmed Saturday that Carr was the backup quarterback, but there really hasn't been any jockeying for positions this offseason. Smith is No. 1, Carr is No. 2 and Nate Davis is No. 3. The only question is whether the team decides to keep Jarrett Brown around on the practice squad. Brown registered a special teams tackle Saturday on Jacoby Ford (the fastest guy at the scouting combine), and his athleticism could be an asset on the scout team
Running backs: 5
(In: Frank Gore, Brian Westbrook, Anthony Dixon, Moran Norris, Michael Robinson)
Comment: Norris has been the team's starting fullback all offseason and there is little doubt he makes the team. He also helped spring Gore on his big, 49-yard run Saturday. (Mike Iupati and Joe Staley threw other key blocks). Robinson, meanwhile, had a nice block on Phillip Adams' 83-yard punt return, then nearly blocked the Raiders next attempt. In other words, he's still a valuable special teams commodity. The question is whether Brit Miller, who hasn't played fullback in the last two preseason games, makes the squad as a special teamer. He had two coverage tackles against the Raiders. He is practice-squad eligible.
(In: Michael Crabtree, Josh Morgan, Ted Ginn, Dominique Zeigler and Kyle Williams)
Comment: Williams is the only question mark in this group because he is still dealing with a turf toe injury. The rookie, however, was clearly the best punt returner this offseason and the 49ers must think long term. Even if he's not healthy in Week 1, the team has other options - Ginn, Adams - who can mind the store. Jason Hill couldn't have been more inconspicuous this offseason and his time with the 49ers appears over. Kevin Jurovich has a solid shot at the practice squad.
Tight ends: 3
(In: Vernon Davis, Delanie Walker, Nate Byham)
Comment: The second time's the charm when it comes to sixth-round blocking tight ends. The 49ers weren't enamored with Bear Pascoe last year, but Byham is the big-bodied blocker that they've been coveting. He also is an adequate pass catcher (think: Billy Bajema) and can line up as a fullback.
Offensive line: 9
(In: Joe Staley, Mike Iupati, Davis Baas, Chilo Rachal, Anthony Davis, Eric Heitmann, Tony Wragge, Adam Snyder, Barry Sims)
Comment: The fact that Sims filled in well for Staley Saturday should scuttle the notion that Alex Boone will bounce Sims from the roster. Sims is a known commodity, and that's what a team that expects to make the playoffs wants if something should happen to its left tackle. Meanwhile, Snyder can play every position on the line. He's been concentrating at right guard, and his block led to Dixon's game-winning tackle. The 49ers need Wragge because he's the backup center with Heitmann out. The question is whether another team would pluck Boone off the waiver wire if the 49ers tried to put him on the practice squad. The 49ers could keep 10 linemen, but would they want five inactive linemen each week? Brian de la Puente and Matt Kopa are practice-squad candidates.
Defensive line: 7
(In: Justin Smith, Aubrayo Franklin, Isaac Sopoaga, Ray McDonald, Demetric Evans, Ricky Jean Francois, Khalif Mitchell)
Comment: Mitchell has played well, but he's still eligible for the practice squad. Sopoaga and Jean Francois can play every position, which would enable the team to go with six linemen if it chooses to be top heavy elsewhere (O-line? Boone?)
(In: Patrick Willis, Takeo Spikes, Parys Haralson, Manny Lawson, NaVorro Bowman, Ahmad Brooks, Travis LaBoy, Diyral Briggs, Matt Wilhelm).
Comment: La Boy has shown true pass-rush ability in the last two games. The only question is whether the 49ers can count on him to be healthy a full season. If the team wanted only eight linebackers, Briggs is eligible for the practice squad, and the team safely moved him to the practice-squad last season. Alternatively, the 49ers found Wilhelm on the street when Takeo Spikes got hurt. How much would they risk by cutting him and telling him to wait by the phone? Keaton Kristick and Mike Balogun are practice-squad candidates.
(In: Dashon Goldson, Michael Lewis, Reggie Smith, Taylor Mays)
Comment: The odd man out is Curtis Taylor, who has played well, but certainly not well enough to displace Smith or Mays. Taylor has practice-squad eligibility and the 49ers would like to keep him around as there is no guarantee Goldson and/or Lewis will be back next season. Chris Maragos is a tough, spunky player, but if Taylor lands on the practice squad would there be room for two safeties?
(In: Nate Clements, Shawntae Spencer, Tarell Brown, Karl Paymah and Phillip Adams).
Comment: The 49ers like Will James' experience and he played well before getting hurt. But Adams has more upside and he showed he can be a valuable special teams player.
(In: Joe Nedney, Andy Lee, Brian Jennings)
Comment: The 49ers will keep Shane Andrus on speed dial in case Nedney's calcified mass raises its ugly, er, mass.
Injured reserve: LB Scott McKillop
-- Matt Barrows