When San Francisco 49ers GM Trent Baalke took over the 49ers war room back in 2010 he had a vision in place. A vision that included selecting players with high character, love and passion for the game, Baalke has done a tremendous job in finding elite talent in all seven rounds. Now, with the 49ers prepared to select a pair of cornerbacks, the question remains which ones will they target?
In four drafts that Baalke orchestrated, he has selected only four cornerbacks. Those cornerbacks include CB Phillip Adams, CB Chris Culliver, CB Curtis Holcomb, and CB Marcus Cooper. The highest cornerback drafted of the four is Culliver who was drafted in the third-round (No. 80) in the 2011 NFL Draft, while the other three were all drafted in the seventh round.
However, look for that to change in the upcoming 2014 NFL Draft. Many NFL analysts believe the position of choice for the Niners would be wide receiver in Round one but if a cornerback falls due to the run on quarterbacks or wide receivers, do not be surprised if the 49ers trade up for a tier one cornerback. Should that scenario play out, which cornerbacks would be identified with a gold helmet next to their name? I have identified five cornerbacks that will likely be targeted due to their measurables, character, and versatility should a cornerback be targeted in the first three-rounds.
1. CB Justin Gilbert (Oklahoma State)
Analysis: A player I said the 49ers should trade up for back in January, Gilbert proved why, as he had arguably the best NFL combine of any cornerback. A player that ran a cornerback best 4.37 second 40-yard dash while also displaying his work ethic in the gym with a cornerback best 20 reps on the 225 pound bench-press, Gilbert proved why he was the No. 1 rated cornerback on my Big Board. A player that adds value in the return game as he has the explosive cut back speed to match, look for Gilbert to make a splash at the next level.
2. CB Darqueze Dennard (Michigan State)
Analysis: The No. 2 rated cornerback on my Big Board, it’s no wonder why his nickname is “The No Fly Zone.” At 5-foot-11 and 197 pounds, he is not the ideal big cornerback the 49ers covet but nonetheless would be a nice addition to the secondary. A player that I consider to be the most fundamentally sound and NFL ready, Dennard’s ceiling is not as high as Gilbert’s. However, he is a solid cornerback and will be highly sought after early in the NFL Draft.
3. CB Jason Verrett (TCU)
Analysis: A player that reminds me of a poor man’s CB Tim Jennings, Verrett would be a nice addition to the 49ers secondary. A player that has the fluid hips to stay stride-for-stride with receivers down field while being able to break on the ball at the drop of a dime, Verrett’s coverage skills would allow Fangio the freedom to blitz more frequently. Not to mention, Verrett is at his best while playing off-coverage, that bodes well for Fangio as his cornerbacks are usually playing off-coverage while keeping everything in front of them.
4. CB Kyle Fuller (Virginia Tech)
Analysis: A player that loves to play aggressive while providing help in run support, Fuller would be a nice fit in Defensive Coordinator Vic Fangio’s scheme. Not a great man-to-man cover corner like Verrett or Dennard, Fuller more than makes up for it with his football instincts. He may not be as athletically gifted as the players above as he also tends to give up a healthy cushion off the line of scrimmage, Fuller can be molded into a strong nickel corner at the next level.
5. CB Bradley Roby (Ohio State)
Analysis: Arguably the most immature player of the bunch with numerous red flags, it seems highly unlikely the 49ers will draft Roby. In July 2013, Roby was involved in a bar altercation resulting in a misdemeanor batter charge while also being suspended for the season opener. To make matters worse, Roby showed no fight as a competitor when he walked away from the 3-cone drill after failing the drill five times. However, his athletic ability alone is enough to warrant a look and would be a nice value pick up if he slides in the second-round.