This is my very early attempt to guess next season's 53-man roster based on last year's squad, free agency, and the draft so far. And I'm purposely posting this before rounds 4-7 to illustrate that we probably shouldn't get too attached to anyone picked today, because chances are very slim that we'll still be seeing them in black and gold come September.
QB (3) - Only question here is who goes to make room for Big Ben when he comes back from his dates with Dr Drew.
RB (3) - There's going to be a new body behind Mendenhall and Moore. I also don't think Logan will reprise his "returner only" role.
FB (1) - Assumption is that Summers is going to be healthy and back up to speed.
WR (6) - We're rolling deep because I don't know who to cut. Ward and Wallace are set in stone, and Randle El is even odds to make it back. After going out and grabbing Battle in free agency as well, and with his purported strong special teams play, I'd be pretty surprised if he was left off. As a third round pick, Sanders is high enough that he's a safe bet to make it as well. The question here is Sweed, and this humble, hopeful soul is optimistic that he will finally settle down and take the field as a gamer, so I've got to include him too.
TE (3) - Miller is a lock and I think Johnson is a safe bet as well. I think Spaeth will be back for one more year as well (much to the consternation of many people around here). I also threw in McHugh's name under my question mark category just so he isn't completely forgotten despite missing all of last year with an injury.
OL (9) - Breakdown is four tackles, four guards, and one center.
At tackle, Starks and Colon are the clear starters. Free agent Jonathan Scott - a Kugler signee - becomes the primary backup, and Essex returns to his familiar role of being the position flexible backup.
At guard, Kemoeatu is at left and I'm confident Pouncey can be penciled in at right. Foster has to be back after the solid year he had, and Urbik has to get at least another year to develop. Or not if he wants to be Tony Hills future roommate.
At center, Hartwig starts but behind him things are interesting. Stapleton is gone, Legursky remains, but with 9 guys already in the position unit, I think Legursky might get cut as well. That then makes Pouncey the presumed backup at his future spot.
DL (7) - Breaks down into five ends and two nose tackles. Hampton and Hoke are back, it's a given. Smith and Keisel are locked back in to start, Hood continues to round into shape getting to rotate in, Eason gets called back as a "savvy veteran" for the rotation as well, and Harris (as we learned the hard way last year) is too good to try to stash away and merits a roster spot again. Kirschke stays in limbo without a contract and we thank him again and wish him the best.
LB (9) - This is actually kinda hard to pin down, in my mind. I believe we had 9 LBs after final cuts last year, so I'm using that as my start point. There are 7 locks: Silverback, Woodley, and now Worilds at OLB; and Farrior, Timmons, Fox, and Foote at ILB.
That leaves two spots, and I think one should go to a veteran and one should go to someone new. Andre Frazier is a long-time reliable backup at OLB that knows LeBeau's system, but Patrick Bailey is a solid, hard-nosed special teamer that might be tougher than expected to leave off despite his lack of contributing as an actual LB (so far as I know). Provided there isn't some young hotshot pick today/rookie free agent that tears up camp, I think both might end up being back to round out the linebacking corps.
DB (9) - Position group is 9 deep out of necessity - five corners and four safeties. Ike is on one side, and I'm with Blitz I'm going to pencil Joe Burnett in as the possible starter on the other side. William Gay gets to return to the nickel role where he's more comfortable and Keenan Lewis is back and has hopefully improved enough to get to see some dime packages. Some might say Anthony Madison gets the fifth spot for his special teams play, but with the free agent signings (Battle and Allen) and draft picks like Worilds who are expected to excel on ST while they develop, I think Madison's inability to be a legitimate backup at corner tips the balance and he unfortunately gets cut again. The fifth spot will instead go to a spry young lad brimming with potential. Thanks for more than a decade of service Deshea.
Troy and Clark are starting at safety, that's a given. Will Allen is the primary back up and a special teams ace, and I'd be surprised if someone beats out Mundy for the last safety spot. Former Thorpe winner Tyrone Carter, thank you for your years of service as well. (Note - we didn't take a safety in the second round because, among other reasons, there is likely no space on the roster for him)
Not much to break down - we'll have Robopunter, a guy with funny hair who has very special interactions with paper towel dispensers, and someone not named James Harrison as longsnapper. But it should be noted that two years running now, Jared Retkofsky has been called midseason to replace an injured Greg Warren. Will we make it three? Will Warren's ACLs decide to hold together for 17 weeks for a change of pace and Retkofsky gets to keep moving furniture? Or will Retkofsky get the job in training camp and Warren gets thanked for his years of service?
Surprise, surprise - there really aren't many open spots on the team.
I'd say only one more spot on offense and only at RB, though maybe a second will open up if Sweed still can't put it all together, and perhaps a third if we find the next Brent Celek and Spaeth gets cut. And only three spots on defense seem to be in play as well, though at least one of them is assured to go to a veteran. Actually doing this breakdown also makes Worilds at OLB in the second a crystal clear sorely needed depth pick, as many people have already said, and I will always trust Colbert's board over mine so I'm 100% behind it.
Moral of the story - there are going to be a lot of sad rookies in Latrobe. We've got seven more draft picks (if we stay pat) and a slew of undrafted rookie free agents that are going to come in, and just about all of them are guaranteed to NOT make the roster. As a result, training camp should be that much more intense this year. And who knows, out of the fire and carnage and brutal competition, maybe someone will be galvanized and emerge as something really special.