49ers Blog and Q&A

News, notes and reader questions about the San Francisco 49ers

March 29, 2012
49ers head into the draft with a packed roster


So this is how successful teams operate. Over the next month we'll debate whether the 49ers should use their first-round pick on a wide receiver, a guard, a running back, etc. But for the first time in many seasons the team truly is in a position to take the mythical Best Player Available. Teams picking at the end of the first round often are in that position. After all, that's what allowed them to get to the end of the first round.

The other ramification of a talented and complete roster is that the team's incoming draft picks - seven at the moment - are not shoe-ins to make the squad, which is not something you could have said in recent seasons. Since 2003, what I consider "The Fall of the 49ers Empire," only five of the team's 77 draft picks have failed to make the 49ers' roster in some way, shape or form the season they were drafted.

Those five: wide receiver Ronald Johnson ('11), tight end Bear Pascoe ('09), linebacker Larry Grant ('08), cornerback Daven Holly ('05) and defensive tackle Christian Ferrara ('04). And of that group, Grant was re-signed last year after spending three years with the Rams.

Meanwhile, the 49ers have added six new faces to the roster in the last month, all of whom have a good shot at making the final squad. At the same time, 11 players who ended the 2011 on the 49ers' 53-man roster are no longer there. But at least one of those players, Grant, is likely to return unless both the markets for inside linebacker and restricted free agent suddenly heat up. And if he doesn't return, the 49ers will get an extra seventh-round draft pick.

Others like Reggie Smith or Madieu Williams or Brett Swain also could return. And the 49ers still are likely to sign a veteran guard at some point in the coming weeks. Then there are the players like tight end Nate Byham, cornerback Curtis Holcomb and receiver Dontavia Bogan who spent the season on injured reserve. They also are on track to return at full health and compete for the last few spots on the roster.

The 49ers could - are even likely to - move around on draft day, which has occurred regularly since Trent Baalke took over the operation. It's logical that the 49ers will trade up in the draft and end the three-day session with fewer picks than which they began it. But the bottom line is that there will be more competition to make the 49ers' roster than there's been in at least a decade.

That's how good teams operate.

Additions (in March):
RB Rock Cartwright
CB Perrish Cox
RB Brandon Jacobs
QB Josh Johnson
WR Mario Manningham
WR Randy Moss

LB Blake Costanzo - signed with Bears
LB *Larry Grant
TE *Justin Peelle
G *Chilo Rachal
WR Joshua Morgan - signed with Redskins
FB *Moran Norris
S *Reggie Smith
G Adam Snyder - signed with Cardinals
CB Shawntae Spencer - signed with Raiders
WR *Brett Swain
S *Madieu Williams

* currently free agents, meaning there's a possibility they could return to the 49ers.

-- Matt Barrows


Matt was born in Blacksburg, Va., and attended the University of Virginia. He graduated in 1995, went to Northwestern for a journalism degree a year later, and got his first job at a South Carolina daily in 1997. He joined The Bee as a Metro reporter in 1999 and started covering the 49ers in 2003. His favorite player of all time is Darrell Green.


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