It is not a simple task ranking out the many position battles the San Francisco 49ers will sort through in 2015 training camp. Whether we're talking talking wide receivers, cornerbacks, defensive line, running backs, or offensive line, there is importance across the board. And so, instead of ranking them, we're just going to go through them one at a time. Today, we move on to the cornerback position.
The 49ers saw both their starting cornerbacks depart in free agency. Chris Culliver and Perrish Cox gave the team solid coverage last season, but now the team will be looking to cash in on some of the medical red-shirts in preparation for 2015. Tramaine Brock and Shareece Wright have been discussed most frequently as starters, but there is a lot of young talent in this group. The team welcomes back Keith Reaser and Kenneth Acker, who are returning from injury, and has all sorts of other young flier options.
Participants: Tramaine Brock, Shareece Wright, Jimmie Ward, Dontae Johnson, Keith Reaser, Chris Cook, Kenneth Acker, Marcus Cromartie, Leon McFadden, Mylan Hicks
Right off the bat, although Jimmie Ward is listed as a defensive back, I am including him in the cornerback position. After all, he is likely competing primarily for the nickel back position. He was not added to an injury list to start training camp, which means his foot should be in good shape to compete for the role. He sat out all of the offseason workout program getting his foot ready.
During Ward's absence, Keith Reaser got a shot at nickel work. Reaser tore his ACL in 2013, and after one surgery then, and another in February 2014, he appears back to 100 percent. The 49ers moved Reaser all around the field, and he and Kenneth Acker will both look to build on a first year spent on the sidelines. They invested a fifth round pick in Reaser and a sixth round pick in Acker.
Brock was on pace to have a starting role last season, but numerous injuries knocked him out of commission for most of the season. He had generally stayed healthy prior to that, so the hope is he remains so this year. Matt Barrows previously reported the hope was Brock would follow the opposing team's best receiver, meaning both he and the No. 2 would be moving around a decent amount. The 49ers added Shareece Wright in free agency, and although he too missed some time in the offseason workout program, he is viewed as a favorite.
Prediction: This is kind of boring, but assuming everyone remains healthy (never a good assumption), it seems likely that Brock and Wright will be starting, and Ward will come in as the nickel back. People are down on Wright, but all indications are that the 49ers grade out Wright fairly well.
Where I think this all gets interesting is how the team uses Reaser. Johnson, Acker and Cook will also factor into this, but Reaser is a guy with a decent amount of buzz. He was a speedy cornerback before his ACL injury, so that is a big factor. But if he flashes, could he supplant Dontae Johnson for dime work? Could he move even further up the depth chart? Or is it a little too easy to get excited about the guy we know very little about?
If (BIG if) the 49ers can remain healthy, I would actually predict some kind of trade from this group. I don't think the 49ers could get a whole lot of much, but I could see a trade to try and net a seventh round pick for somebody from this group. The 49ers made such moves with Parys Haralson and Cam Johnson, so why not see it again this year? This all assumes they can find a buyer, but I would not be at all surprised if we see a trade from this group at some point.