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49ers' Jimmie Ward among league's top corners in past 3 weeks

Ward has been among the league's best corners over the past three weeks.

Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

San Francisco 49ers cornerback Jimmie Ward has had an ... interesting career thus far. He was a surprise first-round pick by the team and it was immediately clear that the 49ers had no idea where they wanted to play him, at least initially. Ward had a rough rookie season and was burned right out of the gate.

But Ward has been playing more and more this season, at both safety and cornerback though primarily, he's been at the latter position. The 49ers still list him as a safety though, and he's come a long way since he was absolutely brutalized by Chicago Bears wide receiver Brandon Marshall in Week 2 of his rookie season.

I shudder to think about that game.

Over the past few weeks, Ward has been playing ... much better than expected. Over the past three weeks, Ward grades out as the top cornerback in the NFL, according to Pro Football Focus. He has a plus-9.0 overall grade, which out of context doesn't say much but it's a very solid grade, if you put stock into that kind of thing.

More importantly, he's allowed three of the seven passes thrown his way for just 10 yards and a 10.7 quarterback rating for the guys throwing to him. He also has three run stops and a pick six in that time. Aside from guys like Ian Williams and Quinton Dial, you could argue that Ward has been the 49ers' best defender in recent weeks.

Given the uncertainty at the cornerback position, this could be an excellent development. Trent Baalke has not made great selections, especially early in the draft, and if Ward starts to flash some of the potential that made him a first-round pick, it could be huge.

Kenneth Acker and Keith Reaser have both struggled, the 49ers continue to misuse Dontae Johnson and Tramaine Brock is too inconsistent to truly be a No. 1 cornerback. They need help desperately, and given the drafting history of this team, I have very little confidence that young help is on the way.

It's far too early to rule out Ward, but most of us did that already, and it's far too early to declare him a good draft pick, and that's not what I'm doing now. But he's showing flashes of top tier play, and that's a massive silver lining for a 49ers team in desperate need of them this season. Ward will have another two weeks to show what he can do and I hope he manages to finish strong.