Each year, we like to run a series of posts called "90-in-90." The idea is that we'll take a look at every player on the roster, from the very bottom to the top and break them down a few ways. This roster will certainly change, and some days we'll have more than one so it's not exactly 90 players in 90 days. At this point, it's a name we're keeping around for street cred.
So, I'm going to level with you guys: I was the biggest anti-fan of cornerback Tramaine Brock out there. When Mike Singletary was in charge, Brock provided essentially nothing to the team. He didn't play, what we saw in the preseason was bad, and he wasn't very good on special teams. When his spot on the roster continued to go unchallenged and seemingly higher-upside guys were released, it got me pretty angry.
Fortunately, I'm not in charge of San Francisco 49ers roster moves.
Brock is something of a late bloomer, but when it comes to cornerbacks, I'll take any positive at this point. Brock burst onto the scene last season, and was incredibly effective. The 49ers ended up signing Brock to a four-year, $16 million extension, a contract that could end up underpaying him if he continues to progress at the same rate he did last offseason.
Fundamentally, Brock is just a very solid player. He makes few mistakes, regardless of which receiver he happens to be going up against. The good folks over at Pro Football Focus credited him with only two missed tackles, and I can't claim I've seen more than that myself. They gave him a coverage grade of +8.1, which of course is objective and silly and all, but that did put him among the top 10 cornerbacks in that particular stat. It's not the argument for Brock's effectiveness, but it is an interesting note.
He wasn't a starter all season, but when Tarell Brown went down with an injury, he basically sealed the deal going forward. He finished the year strong, and ultimately finished the season with 37 tackles, five interceptions and 13 passes defensed. He also had a touchdown off a pick-six, though given that it came off of Matt Schaub it almost doesn't count -- man that guy fell hard.
Why he might improve:
Brock is entering his fifth year in the NFL, something that surprises most people because he did so little in his first three. He's 25 years old and will turn 26 in August, so he's still got plenty of years ahead of him before he enters the normal period of decline. Brock has been preparing to be a starter, he's been practicing with the starters, and there's few reasons to think he won't improve.
Why he might regress:
I suppose the biggest thing would be the possibility that the latter half of 2013 was something of a fluke. Maybe opposing offenses didn't have a read on Brock, but now he'll be one of the focal points of their gameplans going forward. Brock will be facing teams' number one receivers when said player isn't being covered by Chris Culliver. That could easily led to him being "exposed."
Odds of making the roster:
Brock's big extension guarantees he's here through next season. The 49ers have been investing in him for four seasons now, and they're not going to cut him due to a poor training camp or a poor start to the season. Unless, aliens.