Each year, we run a series of post called "90-in-90" here at Niners Nation. The idea is that we'll take a look at every single player on the roster, from the very bottom to the top and break them down a few different ways. This is to help give everyone a basic understanding of a roster. Of course, this roster will change, and some days we'll have more than one so it's not strictly one per day but Fooch is a crazy person who manages this blog with no rhyme or reason and it's worked so far. Who am I to argue?
The San Francisco 49ers haven't done much to address the cornerback position in any significant way over the past few seasons. Despite this, they always come out exceeding expectations, but all we can do as fans and analysts is look at what's happened over the course of the offseason, and this offseason hasn't been promising.
Chris Culliver and Perrish Cox were the team's best cornerbacks last season, and while I'm not advocating paying them the kind of money they got on the open market, the fact that both departed is a pretty significant concern. Tramaine Brock is the only real starter returned from last season, and we still don't know what the 49ers plan to do with Jimmie Ward, the team's first-round pick in 2013. Then there's Dontae Johnson, a player I like a lot and two guys who are essentially rookies in Keith Reaser and Kenneth Acker.
Finally, there's the team's lone free agent signing at the position: Shareece Wright. Of all the guys listed above, I think I have the littlest faith in Wright. I spent a lot of time going back and watching film of him play in 2014, and I came away with very little to be positive about. Wright was beat pretty consistently as a starter last season. I went to the Pro Football Focus stats to see if that was just me, and they're totally in agreement.
Wright was given a negative grade for his pass coverage in 11 of the 14 games he played last season. Some of his grades were incredibly poor, and his run defense wasn't anything to be excited about, either. Wright was given a negative overall grade most games as well, and graded out as the fourth-worst cornerback in the NFL. Culliver came in 15th in the league, and Cox was 35th.
Quarterbacks completed 40 of 70 passes thrown into Wright's coverage, putting up 513 yards and three touchdowns, with an average quarterback rating of 94.5. Now, PFF numbers are not the be-all, end-all, and I've spent a lot of time arguing with many of them (most of those numbers revolving around the offensive line), but this is a fairly consistent trend and while I didn't study every single snap, these are things I observed as well watching some Chargers games last season.
Ultimately, I'm not impressed by what I've seen. He makes a lot of technical errors in pass coverage. He's not quick to react to fast breaking receivers and he gets beat deep. Personally, I see no reason to give him the nod over someone like Johnson, who struggled but has a higher ceiling. All of this makes me question why Wright got such a big signing bonus from the 49ers. I want him to win a starting job by having an excellent training camp, not because the 49ers are invested in him.
At this point, all we can do is wait and see. Maybe a change of scenery will do him well, and maybe the 49ers' defensive scheme fits him better. Wright is still relatively young and he was considered talented with a high ceiling coming out of college. I'd be thrilled to be proven wrong but nothing I've seen so far suggests that's particularly likely.
Why he could improve:
As I said above, Wright has only ever played for the Chargers, and he's only coming into his fifth season in the league. There's a lot of room for him to improve, it just depends on why he struggled. Is he just not that good? If so, then why should we expect improvement? But if a change of scenery and a new defense is what he needs, Wright could certainly fulfill the potential that made him a third-round pick in 2011.
Why he could regress:
Honestly, I don't think there's a lot of room for regression here. Wright was outright bad last season. He wasn't average, he wasn't kind of good in some games, he was bad for the vast majority of the time. There is, of course, a chance that he doesn't fit the new scheme at all, doesn't mesh well with the 49ers' personnel and generally blunders things in a pretty massive way. I don't see that happening -- I just see a mediocre corner, which would be par for Wright's course.
Odds of making the roster:
Unfortunately, given the rather large signing bonus, I have to assume Wright is a lock to make the roster. He's not necessarily a lock to be a starter, but I can't imagine the 49ers would fork over that kind of money for a guy with any chance of being released before the start of the regular season. If they were unhappy with paying one of the best punters in the league, they're not going to invest in a corner like Wright without believing he has something to offer in the long run.