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Optimally speaking, Gray to Merc, Tobin to Archer, Kliff to Mage, Faye to Cleric (Debatable, Mage and Peg are also good), and Atlas to the bench (Merc, Archer, or Cavalier).

Outside of that, Gray, Tobin, Kliff and Faye are fine in almost anything, and Atlas should stay very far away from Soldier.

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Gray - Merc. He has high attack, but mediocre speed and skill. Merc fixes this and turns him into a powerful unit all-around.

Kliff - Mage. He learns some of the best spells in the game.

Tobin - Archer or Mage. Archer fixes some of his problems and fills a niche that only one other member of Alm's army will fill. Mage is a solid option, too, but he doesn't learn as spells that are as good as Kliff's.

Faye - Pegasus or Cleric. More peggies never hurts in this game, and neither does another Cleric, where she can learn some valuable spells. I've seen people say Cav is good for her, too, but eh.

Atlas - Merc. Same deal as Gray, but x10. Don't worry about over-saturating Celica's army with Mercs, since they're possibly the best class all around in the game. Don't be tempted to make him a Soldier for the sake of variety. Just don't.

Edited by Slumber

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Faye gets some unique spells and you can never have too many Clerics in a game where every Cleric is unique.

The other four are pretty much widely agreed upon: Merc Gray, Mage Kliff, Archer Tobin, and Bench/Merc Atlas. You can conceivably get away with Mage Tobin since he gets Excalibur early and Physic a bit after promotion, but his spell list is otherwise extremely shallow so it's really only worth doing if you want to try something different. (Faye, similarly, can become a Mage for practically-exclusive Freeze access, but her offensive spells aren't great and she gets some handy tools as Cleric too.)

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Alm's villagers are good in almost every class they have access to, but excel in some of them and everyone told you already. For Atlas, the class line with the highest speed is the mercenary and that's the only good one for him: the cavalier line is the second-best in terms of speed and those hare his resulting stats (asap assumes you always promote him at the minimum required level):

Spoiler

base                 30      14     3    3       4       5      4
villager(lv20)    34.5    19    6    5.5    6.5    7.5    4
                                
cavalier     34.5    19    6    5.5    6.5    7.5    4
asap          30      14     3    5       4       5       4
                                
paladin     43.05    28.5    11.7    10.25    11.25    12.25    5
asap         32.7      17        5          8           5.5        8        5
                                
gold knight     51.6    38    17.4    15       16      17     6
asap               40      21.5  10.7   12.75  10.25  13    6
                                
gold knight(lv20)  52      42     23.1    19.75  20.75  21.75    6
asap                    48.55  31    16.4    17.5     15       17.75    6

As you can see, his speed is just too low, and he doesn't have the defense to tank 2 hits at a time.

You can make it work with a Libra shard, otherwise you'd better stick to mercenary.

 

Generally, if you are going for the best possible stats, the best way to do it is going mercenary with all the male villagers and loop back at villager, then go with watever class line patches up the character's growths.

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Everyone's already covered the others, and I'm not gonna recommend benching anybody because that's a boring cop-out answer whether it's the most practical course of action or not, but I've heard Atlas actually makes an interesting Mage, if you're looking to try something different with him. Strength and Magic are one stat in Echoes, so his high power will be able to be put to use with magical attacks, healing, and Rescuing, which he'll gain the ability to do at level 4 as a Sage. He also learns the Arrow spell at level 8, which is rather on the inaccurate side, but should allow him to hit like a truck in light of his sheer power. Magic's different accuracy mechanics also help with Atlas' accuracy problems, although I guess it doesn't really do much for his Speed.

Something to think about, at least.

As a bonus, if you're planning on using the Villager's Fork item at all, I have a suspicion that a certain Paladin may benefit from being turned into a Pegasus Knight... and a certain other Paladin is the only non-Villager/Mercenary-line character in the game with a non-generic spell set as a Mage.

Edited by Topaz Light

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On 5/16/2017 at 11:38 PM, Topaz Light said:

As a bonus, if you're planning on using the Villager's Fork item at all, I have a suspicion that a certain Paladin may benefit from being turned into a Pegasus Knight... and a certain other Paladin is the only non-Villager/Mercenary-line character in the game with a non-generic spell set as a Mage.

The options above are amazing the second one being a must, but for the third fork it depends what you do with your villagers if you make Tobin a Mage then Forsyth can make one of the best all around archers in the game just get him to knight then level ten villager  and chances are none of his stats besides res will be under 20 he can easily cap all of his stats endgame while most villagers fork candidates miss out on 1 or 2. If you really don't like Forsyth Lukas can preform the same role. Clive can also be used to fix up your archer side especially because if Faye is anything but a cleric you will want to make Tobin a Mage and then either Lukas, Clive, or Forsyth can all be amazing replacements.

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