Market watch: Taking stock at 49ers camp

As the 49ers prepare to dig into the heart of their preseason schedule, we take a look at every player on San Francisco's summer roster along with a market watch at each position to see who's stock is rising, falling and holding firm with the end of training camp looming Wednesday.

QUARTERBACK
Rising:
Alex Smith, Shaun Hill
Holding: Trent Dilfer, Jesse Palmer
Market watch: Smith's stock never has been higher than it is today after his exceptional preseason debut, which received a lot of attention on a national scale and has created a buzz about his rapid development over last year. He continues to gain confidence and display progress on a daily basis. … Hill gained some steam with a flawless fourth-quarter performance against Chicago last week, completing each of his four passes, showing mobility and scoring on a three-yard touchdown run. … Palmer remains solid and makes good decisions, and he was an efficient 5-of-7 passing against Chicago. Though he's not starter material on this team, he continues to look every bit like a legitimate NFL quarterback. … If Smith didn't look so good, there would be some whispers surfacing by now about giving Dilfer a legitimate opportunity to compete for the starting job, because he has looked exceptional running the offense this summer. Dilfer didn't play in the preseason opener as a precaution, but he'll get some action Sunday against the Raiders.

RUNNING BACK
Rising:
Michael Robinson, Frank Gore
Holding: Maurice Hicks
Falling: Terry Jackson, Kevan Barlow
Market watch: Robinson continues to make a smooth transition to the position and is earning himself some carries in the game plan. He continues to be the fourth-string running back, but gets as many practice reps as any other back. … Gore showed major flashes early in camp and then had a game-high 49 yards rushing against Chicago, averaging 4.9 yards per pop. The 49ers have paced him lately in practice, but he is a big play waiting to happen at any time. … Jackson continues to get squeezed out of playing time, and the practice reps he used to get in years past now are going to Robinson and Hicks. … Barlow has been slowed by a minor thigh injury, and his name has been mentioned in trade rumors, which is not just idle chatter, whether the 49ers wish to publicly admit it or not.

FULLBACK
Rising:
Moran Norris
Holding: Zak Keasey
Falling: Chris Hetherington
Market watch: Norris is strictly a blocker, but he has done very well when given limited opportunities in that role, laying out some heavy lead crunches. … Hetherington, though he marginally remains the starter at the position, isn't used in several formations and his role appears to be diminishing rapidly as the 49ers look for ways to get more tight ends and receivers on the field, with fullback being the position that's left out. … Keasey gets considerable work on the reserve units and is a nice-looking player who could be headed for the practice squad.

WIDE RECEIVER
Rising:
Antonio Bryant, Bryan Gilmore, Taylor Jacobs
Holding: Otis Amey, Brandon Williams, Jason McAddley
Falling: Arnaz Battle, CJ Brewer, Marcus Maxwell, Rasheed Marshall
Market watch: Bryant continues to shine every practice, challenging himself to get better and refusing to be satisfied with anything great he might have done on the day – or even play – before. … Gilmore is unspectacular, but he's a skilled veteran who is climbing in the plans at receiver because of the iffy status of Battle, who is a performer when he can get on the field but continues to be having regular struggles with his chronically-pained right knee. … After mixed impressions on his first day, Jacobs is displaying some all-around skills that other holdover 49ers receivers simply don't have. … McAddley owns one of the most solid sets of hands in camp, but Jacobs' emergence could threaten his roster status. … Williams, after a strong start, is falling off the pace in his battle with Gilmore for the No. 3 role … Maxwell and Marshall are not making the strides they need to earn roster berths here.

TIGHT END
Rising:
Delanie Walker, Vernon Davis
Holding: Eric Johnson, Billy Bajema
Falling: Terry Jones, Onye Ibekwe
Market watch: Walker has been one of the stars of camp, and the rookie's preseason debut – which included a 38-yard kickoff return, a 16-yard gain on an end-around and a game-high five receptions for 54 yards – was nothing short of spectacular. … Davis slowly has been finding his form as he learns the finer details and grunt work involved in the position at the pro level. He's ready for a breakout in upcoming preseason games. … Johnson has been slowed by a hip flexor this week and has leveled off a bit after his quick start in camp. … Jones isn't getting many opportunities to hold onto to his roster spot, and Ibekwe barely belongs on a football field, with his skills so raw he probably would have been better off sticking to basketball instead.

OFFENSIVE LINE
Rising:
Kwame Harris, Justin Smiley, David Baas, Eric Heitmann, Tony Wragge
Holding: Jonas Jennings, Larry Allen, Adam Snyder, Tavares Washington, Sam Wilder
Falling: Jeremy Newberry, Ben Sobieski, Bobby Harris, Harvey Dahl, Patrick Estes
Market watch: Harris and Smiley, who both were being challenged by Snyder for their starting roles on the right side when the summer session began, have been two of the flashiest linemen in camp and both have displayed grit and development over the past three weeks … Heitmann is settling in fine now as the full-time center, and Baas has looked very good at both guard and center. He and Snyder both are starting-caliber second-year players who probably will begin the season as backups. … Jennings and Allen are pacing themselves nicely for the regular season. … Newberry will be placed on injured reserve after having major knee surgery Tuesday, and his exit improves Wragge's chances of making the team. … Sobieski has been bothered by a pinched nerve at a time when he really needs to be on the field showing the team what he can provide in the offensive interior. … Wilder seems to be making a legitimate push for a backup tackle role and my have moved past Estes in that pursuit.

DEFENSIVE LINE
Rising:
Isaac Sopoaga, Anthony Adams, Melvin Oliver
Holding: Bryant Young, Marques Douglas, Ronnie Fields
Falling: Jerry DeLoach, Lance Legree, Scott Scharff, Bobby Payne
Market watch: Sopoaga is emerging as a legitimate monster force in the defensive interior. What the team's looking for now from him is discipline and consistency. … Adams has been giving top effort and is holding onto his role in the defensive line rotation. … Oliver shows flashes of strength and speed at DE; he's a keeper. … Young and Douglas don't need to show anybody anything at this point in the summer; they are core players who are being paced for the regular season. … A knee sprain has hurt DeLoach's chances of making roster and Legree, who was brought in after DeLoach was injured, has had a difficult time picking up the system. … Scharff has not been able to maintain the level of play he displayed while starring this spring in NFL Europe.

LINEBACKER
Rising:
Jeff Ulbrich, Manny Lawson, Jim Maxwell, Bobby Iwuchukwu
Holding: Derek Smith, T.J. Slaughter, Corey Smith, Brandon Moore
Falling: Parys Haralson, Renauld Williams, David Dixon, Sarth Benoit
Market watch: Ulbrich has been at the top of his game this summer, and his 32-yard fumble return for a touchdown vs. Chicago displayed his instincts, improved athleticism and sense of knowing where the football is. … Lawson now starting to pick up his game after a gradual start in camp. … Haralson was an early camp star, but a significant foot injury will put him on the shelf for more than a month – perhaps much more – and will hinder his development and chance of making an early impact. … Iwuchukwu was signed because of Haralson's injury and looks like a fine young player who will get a shot now that the 49ers are getting thin at linebacker … Starters Smith and Moore have been steady, but they're saving themselves for the regular season. … Williams and Dixon have battled injuries, a setback for both young players who need to be on the field to show what they can offer.

CORNERBACK
Rising:
Sammy Davis, Marcus Hudson
Holding: Walt Harris, Shawntae Spencer, Derrick Johnson, B.J. Tucker, Kris Richard
Market watch: Davis has flashed his first-round talent this summer and has earned a role with the team, and maybe even a prominent role if he shows well the rest of the preseason as a starter. … Hudson's making a strong surge now that he has been made a full-time corner, and he's banging on the door for playing time. … Spencer, one of the stars of camp until injuring his hamstring this week, had nothing left to prove and will rest his injury until the regular-season opener. … Harris has been more steady than standout, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. The veteran has held his own as a starter. … Tucker's surge for a key role in coverage packages was slowed by an ankle injury that kept him out for a week before he got back at it Thursday. … Johnson continues to look good enough to either start or be left off the roster altogether. He needs to be consistent and keep up his level of play.

SAFETY
Rising:
Tony Parrish
Holding: Mike Adams, Chad Williams, Vickiel Vaughn
Falling: Keith Lewis, Mark Roman
Market watch: After a slow start coming off his broken leg, Parrish now is rounding into form and once again looking like the heart of the secondary. … Adams made good progress at start of camp but has leveled off a bit. Same thing goes for Williams. … Roman has been unimpressive since joining the team at the start of August. The veteran is losing ground in bid to be a starter … Lewis has fallen out of the picture in coverage roles after starting the final four games at free safety last year. His missed tackle in the red zone that resulted in a Chicago touchdown last week was brutal. … Vaughn is making nice strides, but he remains raw and could be ticketed for the practice squad.

SPECIALISTS
Rising:
Tom Rouen, Brandon Williams, Luis Berlanga, Otis Amey
Holding: Joe Nedney, Andrew Jacas, Brian Jennings
Falling: Andy Lee, Rasheed Marshall
Market watch: Rouen, the 14th-year veteran, has been booming his punts high and deep and out-kicking incumbent Lee on a semi-regular basis. Rouen averaged 11 yards more on his two punts than Lee did on his two punts in the preseason opener. … Berlanga's stock is rising just because he finally made it to training camp this week after missing the first two-plus weeks because of problems getting his working visa in Mexico. He'll get a chance to kick on Sunday. … For a little guy, Jacas has a big leg, and he shows it off in camp. … Nedney has been battling an ankle injury, but he dutifully goes through the camp motions as he gears up for a big 2006 season. … Williams has clearly grabbed the role as San Francisco's top option in the return game, though Amey helped himself with his performance vs. Chicago. … Marshall better make every opportunity he gets the rest of the summer and preseason count, because he's running out of chances.


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