Just a few seasons ago, I was here on this very site arguing that the San Francisco 49ers should move on from safety Dashon Goldson, and that inside linebacker NaVorro Bowman was more important to the team. Many people pushed back -- Goldson had quite the following here and on Twitter, with multiple people suggesting the 49ers were set at linebacker. They called Bowman a luxury.
I'd like to say I saw all of this coming and that keeping Bowman was a plan for when the 49ers experienced the worst offseason in franchise history and everyone was either hurt or retired or pushed out by a childish, vindictive ownership group but no, I didn't see any of that coming. I just didn't think Goldson was a great player. As it turns out -- he's not, but the 49ers drafted his replacement in Eric Reid, and he sure is something else.
Better yet, Trent Baalke or whoever is making the call at strong safety sure knows how to pick winners on the free agent market. Donte Whitner was an excellent pickup for a couple seasons, and Antoine Bethea was easily San Francisco's defensive MVP last season. I think Reid does just about everything well, though on a semi-related note his concussions do worry me quite a bit. Bethea is just a solid all-around safety who is great in coverage.
Behind them, though, there's not a whole lot, in my opinion. Craig Dahl is a backup safety and I think he's really just ... not great. I'll give him some credit: he was solid as a special teams player last season and he didn't completely ruin every game he was in last season. So that's progress. Behind Dahl it's even worse, though I suppose Jimmie Ward is complicating things.
I don't know if the 49ers consider Ward a safety or not. I don't know if he's in the starting conversation at cornerback. National media sites seem to list him as a safety still, but I think that's just a holdover from the draft, at this point. I honestly have no idea what position he plays at this point. Behind him there's not much ... L.J. McCray is a special teamer and that's it for the safeties.
In other words, this is what the safety depth chart looks like, in theory:
I suppose at some point Ward is in there, behind Dahl. Whatever the case, the free agency period is basically coming to an end and the 49ers didn't make any moves at safety. They're confident in the guys they have, at least as far as the starters are concerned. But we're just days away from the 2015 NFL Draft and, as we've been asking for the rest of the positions: will the 49ers do anything at safety in the draft?
It's worth noting that this year's safety class is not particularly strong. That is to say, there aren't game-changing safeties at the top end, but this could also lead to quality starter material making it deep into the third and fourth rounds. At least, that's what I expect to happen. Obviously, the 49ers are set for 2015 as far as starters go, but what happens when Bethea heads elsewhere? I have to wonder if Ward is the guy or if the 49ers look to find Bethea's replacement in the NFL Draft.
If they look to replace Bethea in the next couple seasons, they don't have to worry about too much inexperience in the secondary. Reid is a veteran at this point, and after another season he'll be even more solid. If there's someone the 49ers like, I could easily see them drafting a guy and trying to get him some work in a backup role this coming season.
Whatever the case, here are Dan Kadar's safety rankings -- he calls it a weak class but again, that could be beneficial for teams playing the long game. I'm a big, big fan of Jaquiski Tartt of Samford, myself.
|1. Landon Collins, 6'0, 222 pounds, S, Alabama|
|2. Eric Rowe, 6'0 3/4, 205 pounds, S/CB, Utah|
|3. James Sample, 6'2 1/8, 209 pounds, S, Louisville|
|4. Damarious Randall, 5'10 7/8, 196 pounds, S, Arizona State|
|5. Gerod Holliman, 6'2, 213 pounds, S, Louisville|
|6. Cody Prewitt, 6'2 1/8, 212 pounds, S, Ole Miss|
|7. Derron Smith, 5'11, 197 pounds, S, Fresno State|
|8. Jaquiski Tartt, 6'1 3/8, 220 pounds, S, Samford|
|9. Chris Hackett, 6'2, 195 pounds, S, TCU|
|10. Anthony Harris, 6'1, 183 pounds, S, Virginia|
|11. Durell Eskridge, 6'2 7/8, 208 pounds, S, Syracuse|
|12. Adrian Amos, 6'0 1/2, 214 pounds, S, Penn State|
|13. Kurtis Drummond, 6'0 5/8, 205 pounds, S, Michigan State|
|14. Ibraheim Campbell, 5'11 1/2, 210 pounds, S, Northwestern|
|15. Jermaine Whitehead, 5'11, 197 pounds, S, Auburn|
|16. Justin Cox, 6'0 5/8, 191 pounds, S, Mississippi State|
|17. Cedric Thompson, 6'0, 208 pounds, S, Minnesota|
|18. Clayton Geathers, 6'1 1/4, 212 pounds, S, Central Florida|
|19. Kyshoen Jarrett, 5'9 7/8, 200 pounds, S, Virginia Tech|
|20. Jordan Richards, 5'10 3/4, 211 pounds, S, Stanford|
|21. Isaiah Johnson, 6'2, 205 pounds, S, Georgia Tech|
|22. Fritz Etienne, 6'1 1/4, 215, S, Memphis|