Aside from wide receiver (which we discussed here) cornerback might be the most sought after position this offseason. Currently there are only three corners scheduled to return next year: newly signed Tramaine Brock, Carlos Rogers, and Chris Culliver.
Rogers has a giant cap number in 2014 (somewhere around $6.25 million) and most think he will be a cap casualty this offseason - unless he agrees to rework his deal. Culliver will be returning from ACL surgery so there is some risk there.
It was believed the Niners would look to lock up Tarell Brown after a stellar 2012 campaign. Brown, however, hasn't played like he did in 2012 in 2013. That's not to say he's been bad but he's only barely graded positively this season according to Pro Football Focus.
Regardless of how it plays out, it's likely the 49ers use at least one early round pick to address the need(s) at cornerback.
Here is my top-ten as of now:
1. Ifo Ekpre-Olomu 5-10 185lbs - Junior - Oregon
2. Justin Gilbert 6-0 200lbs - Senior - Oklahoma State
3. Darqueze Dennard 5-11 197lbs - Senior - Michigan State
4. Jason Verrett 5-10 176lbs - Senior - TCU
5. Lamarcus Joyner 5-8 190lbs - Senior - Florida State
6. Bradley Roby 5-11 192lbs - Redshirt (RS) Junior - Ohio State
7. Louchiez Purifoy 6-0 190lbs - Junior - Florida
8. E.J. Gaines 5-10 195lbs - Senior - Missouri
9. Marcus Roberson 6-0 195lbs - Junior - Florida
10. Aaron Colvin 6-0 192lbs - Senior - Oklahoma
This year's cornerback class reminds me some of last year in that it is very deep. Because of that, there is likely to be a lot of movement up and down this list before it's all said and done.
Ifo Ekpre-Olomu is far and away my top corner in the 2014 draft. Even though he only has average size Ekpre-Olomu might be the most physical corner in this class (he's been compared to Cortland Finnegan). Ekpre-Olomu excels in man coverage and is an asset in the run game.
Justin Gilbert is a guy that stands out because of his elite size and speed combination. He's a bit raw but has a knack for big plays.
Jason Verrett is a guy I could see making a push into the first round as draft day approaches. If not for his size (or lack thereof) Verrett would be a shoe-in first rounder.
With Carlos Rogers unlikely return in 2014, the Niners will need to replace their slot corner. Culliver could be a candidate but hasn't performed well there when given opportunities. A guy that could slide in start from day one is Lamarcus Joyner. Joyner might be one of my favorite players in this entire class.
Despite below average height, Joyner is a big time football player. He's a stronger version of Tyrann Mathieu. Joyner didn't create as many turnovers in college as Mathieu but he's always around the ball, can play multiple positions including safety, and he's a tremendous situational pass rusher. He's a steal in the third round...IF he lasts the long.
Ohio State's Bradley Roby was thought to be the top corner in this class last year. An up and down season and an early season struggles, Roby is now a borderline second rounder. He has elite 4.3 speed and plays with an attitude so his stock should rise as we get closer to draft day.
I think the Niners target two corners in the 2014 draft. Obviously, this depends on what happens in free agency and with Tarell Brown. However it plays out, drafting a corner in the first three rounds seem likely.