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2011 49ers Grades: Chris Culliver

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Yesterday, Tre9er posted about Michael Crabtree and the poll results are pretty much where I expect them to be at this point: essentially pleased. I voted him at a seven even though he didn't break 1,000 yards, and this is because I've accepted the fact that he's a No. 2 receiver at this point. Moving on today, we'll take a look at the other side of the ball, a player that, in my opinion, needs to develop into a solid player for the 49ers to be successful going forward.

I'm talking about Chris Culliver, who was drafted this past season in the third round amid much confusion and head-scratching. I certainly wasn't an expert on him, and I'd ranked quarter cornerbacks through all seven rounds, and Culliver wasn't on my radar as someone who could have been drafted before the end of the fifth round. I wouldn't say there was a lot of outrage, but there were very few happy customers.

Either way, Culliver was the corner that the 49ers needed so bad, when they were expected to draft one in the first two rounds. Instead, the team went out and signed Carlos Rogers, and he played like one of the best corners in football. Behind him, the team didn't have much in Tarell Brown and Tramaine Brock (Shawntae Spencer doesn't exist), so playing time for Culliver was something he could most definitely earn. And he did.

Sacks Interceptions Tackles
G Sacks YdsL Int Yds IntTD Solo Ast Total
2011 - Chris Culliver 13 0 0 1 23 0 32 1 33

Culliver's season was definitely up-and-down, though not in the sense that he struggled in one game and played well the next. Instead, he struggled against particular receivers, but played well against others, even if that other receiver happened to be better. He started getting some playing time in Week 4, and just two weeks later was covering Calvin Johnson.

And cover Calvin Johnson he did! Though Megatron had a decent game, Culliver wasn't on him the whole game, but when he was, he covered him very well. I remember after the game, Culliver tweeted that he told Johnson to shutup and that he was too big to cry. I thought that statement was awesome, and that's coming from someone who loves Megatron (I didn't think it right to say I love Johnson).

Still, Culliver did have some bad outings against lesser receivers, like when he was abused by Mario Manningham. Look, I think the Giants and 49ers play each other and go something not entirely unlike 50/50, but if Eli Manning hadn't overthrown three or four balls in that first game against San Francisco, they would have been 2-for-2 on us, because Culliver was badly deep by some of them. At least two of them were deep to the endzone. He also was beaten multiple times by Marques Colston in the playoffs, but the safeties were also playing out of coverage for the majority of said game.

Those games aside, Culliver wasn't a liability in coverage, which is great because he was a green rookie with no offseason and he played safety in college. Aside from the aforementioned times he got beat deep, his lapses in coverage usually resulted in very short gains. I saw him bite on curl routes multiple times, and that's something that he'll improve on with work in the offseason.

Clearly, the 49ers expect him to be a starter heading into next season, but he does still have a long way to go.