Previously, we took a look at the best and worst case scenarios regarding first round pick Aldon Smith for the immediate future, and I think everybody was mostly in agreement. The best case would be Smith coming in from the get-go and being a complete, dominant outside linebacker, and it's a realistic best case scenario because he's got so much potential. On the flipside, the worst-case would be that he's simply ineffective as a pass-rusher and is more-or-less like Parys Haralson in the vein that teams figure him out quickly and he never develops NFL level pass-rush moves.
Now, we move on to Chris Culliver, the team's third-round pick and the head-scratcher of the draft, at least going by the public consensus. After spending some time watching tape on Culliver and getting the opinions of others, I do like the pick a little more, but I still believe that there were better selections on the board at that point. As it stands, I can't argue with Trent Baalke, Jim Harbaugh and Vic Fangio, three people who have garnered my trust rather fast, and I'm hoping the pick pans out. But what should we be expecting in year one? What's the best-case scenario?
Make the jump and we'll discuss it.
Best Case Scenario: Chris Culliver picks off a starting job
The team knew that they wanted to address one of outside linebacker or cornerback in the first round, and they went with Smith, so that left a question mark when it came to the cornerback position. In the third round, after grabbing Colin Kaepernick, they simply needed another body that they could throw in the mix and put on a receiver before the talent became severely depleted. As it stands, it appears that Culliver will be the guy they play here and there, maybe they find he matches up against certain receivers or certain types of receivers well, and they use him that way.
A good scenario for the 49ers is one where Culliver takes over the nickel spot on the depth chart. When they go to the nickel, they have a tendency to move Nate Clements around a lot but he is not the "nickel corner." Let's just say that the 49ers would be satisfied if Culliver can be the third corner on the field and be pretty good at taking away slot receiver here and there.
But even better than that would be Culliver taking the second corner position. He's got a lot of natural talent and athleticism, it's not out of the realm of possibility to believe that Culliver can pick off a few passes and work his way into the starting rotation. He doesn't need a Pro Bowl season, and in fact is probably too raw for such a thing, but if he can beat Shawntae Spencer, an on-again, off-again guy, that would be great for the team.
Worst Case Scenario: The 49ers' reach doesn't pay off and Culliver is not very good
There's really no other way to put it. The worst case is always a player just not performing well, but in Culliver's case, folks will cast an even longer glance upon him, as he was a perceived reach at the time of the draft and the majority of the fanbase remains unconvinced of his ability.
In essence, the worst-case scenario is that all of our snap-judgements and quick reactions, in the draft thread when the Culliver pick was made, come true. Maybe Culliver is a diamond in the rough, something we all overlooked and that's our fault that we'll be glad to be wrong about ... but maybe he's just not very good. Maybe he doesn't have that ability to play cornerback at the NFL level. He has the fallback option of playing safety, but he might not be good there either.
It's a case of the 49ers simply knowing much more about what they want and what this kid has.