Early odds for 49ers' 53-man roster

Early odds for 49ers' 53-man roster
May 1, 2013, 12:45 pm
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NaVorro Bowman and Patrick Willis are roster locks, but there is a lot of competition among the backup linebackers. (USA TODAY IMAGES)

The goal of creating competition within the 49ers' roster has been accomplished.

The 49ers are in the process of filling out their 90-man roster for the offseason with spots available for 15 free agents -- mostly undrafted rookies.

Let the competition for roster spots and playing time begin.

"We present the opportunity," 49ers general manager Trent Baalke told CSNBayArea.com in March at the NFL owners meetings. "We never put a ceiling on any player, whether it's a draft pick or a free agent, college free agent. We never put a ceiling on what they can be within our system.

"We look at it like, 'We're bringing you in to compete.' You will earn that role on this team through competition. That's with every player."

With that in mind, we take our first look at the odds one man has placed on every player winning a spot on the 53-man roster. (The final cuts are made following the fourth and final exhibition games.)

All of the undrafted rookies are automatically placed in the "must impress" column. That includes British Olympian Lawrence Okoye, who certainly must impress in order to win a spot on the 53-man roster, as well as multi-skilled MarQueis Gray and promising tackle Luke Marquardt.

Quarterbacks
Locks: Colin Kaepernick
Looking good: Colt McCoy
50-50: Scott Tolzien, B.J. Daniels
Note: Daniels must show he can handle the No. 3 duties, but he has the edge over Tolzien because of his potential game-day versatility.

Running backs
Locks: Frank Gore, Bruce Miller, Kendall Hunter, LaMichael James, Marcus Lattimore
50-50: Anthony Dixon
Must impress: Jewel Hampton
Notes: This takes into consideration that Lattimore is expected to be placed on "non-football injury" to open training camp. If he remains on that list to open the regular season, he would not take up one of the team's 53 roster spots. . . If Dixon distinguishes himself as one of the team's best special-teams players, he'll definitely be back for his fourth season.

Wide receivers
Locks: Anquan Boldin, Michael Crabtree, Quinton Patton
Looking good: A.J. Jenkins, Mario Manningham, Kyle Williams
50-50: Ricardo Lockette
Must impress: Chad Hall, Joe Hastings, Marlon Moore
Note: If healthy, Manningham is the front-runner to be the 49ers' No. 3. The "looking good" category speaks to the level of competition in which there's very little to separate the third spot from the sixth spot. UPDATE: Patton has been moved to the "locks" category based on how he's already won over coach Jim Harbaugh with this story.

Tight ends
Locks: Vernon Davis, Vance McDonald
Looking good: Garrett Celek
Must impress: Cameron Morrah
Note: Gray, the undrafted rookie, could be a factor because of his versatility.

Offensive linemen
Locks: Joe Staley, Alex Boone, Anthony Davis, Mike Iupati
Looking good: Jonathan Goodwin, Daniel Kilgore, Joe Looney
Must impress: Carter Bykowski, Al Netter, Wayne Tibue, Kenny Wiggins
Note: Goodwin enters the final year of his contract, and he's bound to get some stiff competition for his starting job at center this offseason from Kilgore and Looney.

Defensive linemen
Locks: Justin Smith, Ray McDonald, Glenn Dorsey, Tank Carradine
Looking good: Ian Williams
50-50: Quinton Dial, Demarcus Dobbs, Will Tukuafu
Must impress: Lamar Divens, Tony Jerod-Eddie
Note: Williams the slight edge ahead of Dial, Dobbs and Tukuafu based on the $1 million commitment the team gave him as part of a contract extension.

Linebackers
Locks: Patrick Willis, Aldon Smith, NaVorro Bowman, Ahmad Brooks
Looking good: Dan Skuta, Parys Haralson, Corey Lemonier, Michael Wilhoite
50-50: Cam Johnson, Nick Moody
Must impress: Darius Fleming, Nate Stupar
Note: Haralson, a former starter, is the only backup linebacker with experience. He re-worked his contract to stick around. . . Special teams will decide most of the backup spots.

Cornerbacks
Locks: Tarell Brown, Carlos Rogers
Looking good: Chris Culliver, Tramaine Brock
50-50: Nnamdi Asomugha, Perrish Cox
Must impress: Marcus Cooper
Notes: The 49ers have already picked up a portion of Rogers' 2013 salary, so he fits into the team's plan for this season. . . Asomugha does not have any special-teams value, so he would seemingly have to win a role over Brown, Rogers or Culliver to stick on the 53-man roster. The 49ers gave Asomugha no guaranteed money, which is a clear indication he must win a roster spot.

Safeties
Locks: Eric Reid, Donte Whitner
Looking good: Craig Dahl, C.J. Spillman
50-50: Darcel McBath, Trenton Robinson
Must impress: Michael Thomas
Notes: Whitner will be leaned on heavily, as the 49ers get the rookie up to speed. Spillman returns as the top 49ers' special-teams player. Dahl is the top insurance policy.

Specialists
Locks: K Phil Dawson, P Andy Lee, LS Brian Jennings
Note: There simply does not appear to be any room for a youngster to break up this group.

Totals
Locks: 30 
Looking good: 17 
50-50: 13
Must impress: 15, plus all undrafted rookies