GLENDALE, AZ - DECEMBER 11: C.J. Spillman #27 of the San Francisco 49ers downs a punt at the one yard line against the Arizona Cardinals at University of Phoenix Stadium on December 11, 2011 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images)
Amongst all of the other news and rumors circulating right now (TEBOW TEBOW MANNING ALEX SMITH FEELINGS)...I have another legitimate concern about the 2012 49ers roster:
The Safety position.
More specifically, the Free Safety position...or at least the number of guys we have on the roster who I feel comfortable putting on the field to cover and/or help cover wide receivers.
Franchising Dashon Goldson was a big part of retaining the 11 starting defenders for this upcoming season. Glad that happened. But beyond Goldson the depth is pretty murky.
C.J. Spillman is young and obviously the 49ers feel he has some upside or they wouldn't have given him the contract they did. He's unproven, though, and what I did see of him he looked better utilized as a strong safety coming up in run-support than someone I want covering the deep ball vs. Larry Fitzgerald or Doug Baldwin.
The only other safeties on the roster, in fact, are Mark LeGree (free agent safety from the 2011 draft class who finished season on practice squad) and Colin Jones (speedy special teams ace who's played more wide receiver than safety in practice...ok, slight exaggeration but semi-true).
Neither inspire great confidence should something happen to one of the starting safeties. After the jump we'll look at some options in the draft since this free-agent crop of safeties are underwhelming.
This is why I think the 49ers will draft a safety somewhere in the first four rounds of the draft. Goldson might not be able to agree to a new deal with the team after his franchise season (assuming he doesn't before he signs the tag). Whitner is a great strong-safety but I'm not sure he's up for covering deep-balls as we've seen him involved in some of the longer passing plays against the defense.
Some names to look out for in the draft: Markelle Martin (Okl. State), Christian Thompson (SC State) and a later-round guy in Janzen Jackson (McNeese State). The former would be earlier picks, second round and later. Janzen could be had in the mid-late rounds due to flying under the radar and playing for a small school.
Jackson was a Tennessee recruit (thanks to GrantMP for pointing me to him) but was "hosed" by the Lane Kiffin debacle. His 40 time seems slower, but he plays faster on tape, similar to Kendall Wright's 40-time vs. tape situation.