It is a quiet Sunday as we roll through Memorial Day, and I found myself poking around YouTube for 49ers content. As is often the case, I stumbled across this brief compilation of Merton Hanks doing his famed chicken dance. He rolled out the dance after particularly huge plays, and during his time with the San Francisco 49ers, he had plenty of opportunities to bust out the celebration.
While watching the video above, I noticed Steve Mariucci mention Hanks's 33 career interceptions. I realized he had a lot of picks in his career, but I did not realize it was that significant. I confirmed the 33 number on his Pro Football Reference page, and then checked out the 49ers PFR page. Hanks had 31 of his interceptions in San Francisco, with the remaining two in Seattle in his final season. His 31 career interceptions with the 49ers rank fourth all time. Here is the 49ers top ten in interceptions:
1. Ronnie Lott (1981-1990): 51
2. Jimmy Johnson (1961-1976): 47
3. Kermit Alexander (1963-1969): 36
4. Merton Hanks (1991-1998): 31
4. Lowell Wagner (1949-1955): 31
6. Dwight Hicks (1979-1985): 30
7. Jim Cason (1948-1954): 25
8. Rex Berry (1951-1956): 22
8. Don Griffin (1986-1993): 22
8. Tony Parrish (202-2006): 22
The top of that list includes all-time greats in franchise history, and as we move down we get to some names we don't know, and others that bring back a few memories. Among more recent 49er, Walt Harris accumulated 15 interceptions in just three seasons with eight in 2006, four in 2007 and three in 2008.
The 49ers have a lengthy veteran in Antoine Bethea (4 interceptions last year), but much of the rest of the secondary is fairly young. Tramaine Brock and Eric Reid each have seven interceptions in their time with the 49ers, leading the current secondary in 49ers-based interceptions. Shareece Wright joins the team with a chance to move into the starting lineup, but obviously there are a lot of young defensive backs in the mix between Jimmie Ward, Dontae Johnson, Keith Reaser, Kenneth Acker, Marcus Cromartie, Leon McFadden and Mylan Hicks.
Do any of these young cornerbacks strike you as guys who could potentially climb the 49ers interceptions leaderboard? Or are the 49ers settled into an era where they won't see consistent big INT numbers from a single player? The 49ers led the NFL with 23 interceptions last season. Perrish Cox led the way with five picks, with Antoine Bethea and Chris Culliver second with four apiece.
Keith Reaser strikes me as an interesting possibility given his impressive speed. If he can spot the ball well down the field, his speed would prove big for him. It is way too early to tell with any of these young guys given they have limited experience. But that won't stop us from considering the possibilities. My guess based on the recent past is nobody jumps out with huge numbers, but maybe one of these young guys has the talent to be that big time corner. I'll take the under-rated performances from last year, but I certainly wouldn't mind seeing a lock-down high profile corner emerge from this group!