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49ers rookies 2014 review: Dontae Johnson

How did Dontae Johnson fare in 2014? Will he be a starter heading into next season?

Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports

Each offseason, we like to run a series of articles here on Niners Nation called "90-in-90." In the post, we take a look at 90 players (or so) on the 49ers' 90-man roster throughout the offseason and what we can expect of them the following year. We take a look at their expected impact, whether or not they'll make the roster and things of that nature. For rookies, we're going back and looking at how we did with those posts.

Thus far, we've taken a look at Chris BorlandJimmie WardCarlos Hyde and Marcus Martin. Today, we're going to take a look at cornerback Dontae Johnson.

I was honestly pretty impressed with Johnson this past season. The 90-in-90 post echoed a lot of the sentiment around the Internet at the time: Johnson is big, has a lot of athletic talent and has all the tools to be a successful cornerback, but that he'd have some trouble cracking the starting lineup. The prediction was that he'd make the roster, but that he could spend most of the year inactive.

That wasn't quite what happened. Johnson was active all season, but his spot on the depth chart was kind of a big question mark. San Francisco had multiple injuries at the cornerback position, and they couldn't quite figure out where they wanted all of their cornerbacks. A couple times, Johnson and Chris Cook exchanged spots on the depth chart but it definitely felt, as the season went on, that Johnson was passing Cook.

I thought Johnson actually looked very good on the outside, the one exception being he and Jimmie Ward getting abused by Brandon Marshall when the 49ers played the Chicago Bears in Week 2. If I recall, Ward got beat a whole lot more, but aside from that game, I really like what Johnson was able to do.

Again, that's on the outside. He got in a lot of slot play late in the season, but I honestly felt he did his best work against bigger receivers on the outside, a la Richard Sherman. That was a name that popped up in comparison a lot immediately following the draft, but he's obviously got a long way to go until then.

Johnson, Tramaine Brock, Ward, Kenneth Acker and Keith Reaser are the returning cornerbacks next season. All of Perrish Cox, Chris Culliver and Cook are free agents, and I honestly don't know how I feel about most of them. Cox played very well down the stretch, and he should be a starter if the 49ers re-sign him, but I can honestly see Johnson being a starter outside next season.

I don't necessarily think that would be a bad thing. It's hard to really gauge where he's at talent-wise, as he had to move around so much and saw his playing time fluctuate so significantly. He'd get 20 snaps one week and then play nothing but special teams the next, and I wasn't seeing anything on film that made it look like he screwed up something enough to lose his snaps. I think his performance in training camp will tell us a lot about what the 49ers think they have with him going forward.