At this time of year the draft has come and gone. Free agency has quieted down (though it's usually quiet for the 49ers anyway) and we're just starting to get a glimpse into the players acquired thus far in the off-season. Early draft picks provide hope as potential starters and difference makers. But the most intriguing questions to be answered might just be who will earn roster spots as the final backups at their position?
The corner back position is one of those that has seen an influx of players this off-season yet it remains unclear, beyond the "big three" starters (Nate Clements, Shawntae Spencer and Tarell Brown), who will make the final 53-man roster as the final two players. After the jump we'll review the new faces who will be competing for these spots on the active roster.
I'm going to list the players in order by how much NFL game experience they have, from veteran to rookies. Also, I'm not including LeRoy Vann in this discussion because I sincerely believe that Vann will only earn a roster spot as a special teams player, mostly a returner. While making the team may afford him the opportunity to compete for a role in dime/quarter coverage...the team only rostered 5 CB's in 2009 and Vann would have to unseat someone later in the season before he'd likely see any game time at CB.
So here we go, two roster spots, six competitors. These are their profiles:
James, age 30, was signed in May after spending 2009 in Detroit, starting 14 games and recording 73 tackles, 14 passes defensed, two interceptions and a touchdown. Many will remember James being victimized on a double-move route by Michael Crabtree in the 2009 game between the 49ers and the Lions. James, who formerly went by the name Will Peterson, was drafted by the Giants in 2001 where he played with current 49ers secondary coach Johnnie Lynn through 2003. Lynn was James' secondary coach in 2001 and then was promoted to Defensive Coordinator in 2002. James is 6'0" 200 lbs., just the size the 49ers want from their physical CB's. One other interesting note about James is that he has been sitting out of OTA's to learn the playbook. I mention this because he can't possibly know less of the playbook than the rookies, who are out on the field. One might assume this means that James already has the inside edge on the 4th CB spot so long as he doesn't disappoint in training camp. Update: Will James has been sitting out of practices because he is healing a hairline fracture. - Barrows
Paymah, age 27, was signed in March after spending 2009 in Minnesota, starting just two games and recording 27 tackles, two passes defensed , and one forced fumble. Paymah has seen action in 72 games in his five year career, starting 7 of them. Paymah visited with the 49ers during the 2009 off-season before eventually signing a 1-year deal with the Vikings. He excels at press-coverage and was used outside in the nickel package a lot while in Minnesota. At 6'0" 195 lbs. Paymah is also prototypical size for what the 49ers like in CB's. Paymah was also a contributor on special teams, something that the 49ers surely liked when they considered bringing him in.
Smith, age 30, was signed in November of 2009 in response to Nate Clements' shoulder injury. Smith had previously been with the Lions seeing action in 71 career games (5 starts), registering 118 tackles, four interceptions, 14 passes defensed, one sack, one forced fumble and one touchdown. In 2007, Smith's best statistical year, he recorded 50 tackles, 7 passes defensed, 3 interceptions and one touchdown. 49ers fans will remember Smith being beaten by Deon Butler with 12 seconds left in the second Seattle game of 2009, setting up the game-tying field goal. Smith measures 5'11" 191 lbs.
Adams was drafted in 2010 by the 49ers in the 7th round out of South Carolina State. (The following was plagiarized from Fooch from this post) As a senior, Adams tied for the team lead with three interceptions, two of which he returned for touchdowns, ranked tied for first in the MEAC with 11 pass breakups, and posted 48 tackles. In 2008, he tied for first in the MEAC with five interceptions and tallied nine pass breakups, while returning 11 punts for 208 yards and two touchdowns. One scouting report says that Adams is a " tough corner with good speed willing to lay the wood and be extremely physical at the line of scrimmage. Maintains contact with receivers all the way down the field. Makes the interception and makes hits to jar balls loose after the receiver gets his hands on it. Closes well on the ball when playing off. Can fit any system. One of best players at HBCU Bowl in Montgomery. Good attitude and leader." He measures 5'11" 192 lbs. and ran a 4.53-second and 4.52-second 40-yard-dash, had a 34.5-inch vertical leap, 10-4 broad jump, 4.35-second short shuttle, a 7.17-second three-cone drill.
Stoudamire was signed as an undrafted free agent following the 2010 draft. He played his college ball at Western Illinois (again, from Fooch) totaling 134 tackles, 6 INTs, 41 PDs, 2 FFs and 1 FR in 42 games for the Leathernecks. As a senior, posted 37 tackles, 17 PDs, 1 INT, 1 FF and 1 FR in 11 games (10 starts). A season prior, tallied 32 tackles, 9 PDs and 1 INT. Had a breakout season as a sophomore, registering 41 tackles, 9 PDs, 3 INTs and 1 FF in 11 games (10 starts). A scouting report says that "Stoudamire held his own against FBS receivers during East-West Shrine Game week, displaying his physicality and an ability to stay with receivers throughout their routes...Hard-working player with good athleticism, genetics and character." He measures 5'10" 206 lbs., which is pretty stout for a CB. His pro-day numbers are: 4.52 and 4.55 in the 40-yard dash, had a 31-inch vertical leap, a 9-11 broad jump, 4.14 short shuttle, 7.00 three-cone drill and completed 11 bench press repetitions at 225 pounds.
Brock, like Stoudamire, was signed as an unddrafted free agent following the 2010 draft. Brock played for Belhaven University (Jackson, MS) his senior year and posted 51 tackles, 13.5 TFLs, 2.5 sacks, 6 INTs, 10 PDs and 1 FR, while also returning 29 kicks for 505 yds. Spent his junior season at Minnesota, totaling 73 tackles, 6 PDs, 1 INT, 3 FFs and 1 FR, before transferring to Belhaven. Prior to time at Minnesota, played at one of the nation’s top junior college programs, Mississippi Gulf Coast, helping the Bulldogs to a perfect 12-0 record and a share of the NJCAA National Championship as a sophomore. Totaled 72 tackles, 7 INTs and 2 FFs in 17 games at MGC. (I just noticed Fooch had those stats verbatim and so did 49ers.com so now who's plariarizing?!?) It's interesting to note that Brock was the starting free safety during his time at Minnesota, where he was known as a hart hitter. He measures 5'10" 197 lbs. and while I can't seem to find any pro-day numbers, I see unofficial times of 4.46 and 4.54 in the 40yd. dash.
So NinersNation...what are your predictions for who will snag the final two CB roster spots of 2010? Do you see anyone making it to the practice squad or will one of the above get snatched by another team before landing there? Will the team go with experience and sacrifice upside, and potentially long-term depth at the position? Talk about it!