The San Francisco 49ers are only midway through their 2015 preseason schedule, leaving them two preseason games and 16 regular season games (and hopefully some playoff games!) until we reach the next offseason. While the NFL season is only just beginning, it is never too soon to start draft coverage! In the past, we have put together weekly prospect reports for college games on a given weekend. We have also done some work with prospect rankings later in the season.
This year, we're adding something new. I thought it would be helpful to come up with a preseason watch list for each of the main positions on both sides of the ball. We still don't even know what the 49ers roster will look like in two months, let alone next offseason. However, some folks are already going to be looking at next year's draft. And so, I wanted to get started with some top prospects at each position.
We're back today with cornerbacks (other positions linked above). Jake Narayan has a look at five of them. The list of names is far from all-inclusive, but rather some of the big names to help get things started. Additionally, this depends on some of the players declaring for the draft, so again, it is just looking at some potential top options at each position.
The 49ers have had a lot of cornerback turnover, which I suppose is a common theme up and down the roster. Chris Culliver and Perrish Cox started last year, and are both elsewhere in 2015. Tramaine Brock, Shareece Wright, Dontae Johnson, Keith Reaser and Kenneth Acker are all in the mix for opportunities this season. There is a lot of young talent, but we've seen enough change that adding more talent next spring could make sense. Of course, I do hope we see DJ, Reaser and Acker all emerge in a big way.
Vernon Hargreaves III
Credit: Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports
#1 | Florida Gators | Junior
Height: 5'11" | Weight: 200 | Age: 20
2014 Stats: 50 total tackles, 13 pass breakups, 3 INT's
First-Team All-America selection by ESPN
Strengths: I definitely agree with the rest of the country on the fact that Vernon Hargreaves is the best cornerback in college football. Hargreaves shows the ability to cover someone much larger than him. He does his assignment well and plays excellent in a cover 3 and in man. My favorite attribute about the All-SEC corner is his ability to come up and play the run with his willingness to put his nose in the play. I also noticed he his exceptional on corner blitzes coming off of the edge and being able to make a tackle. In addition to all these pluses, Hargreaves plays the screen awfully well due to the fact he is a natural football player.
Weaknesses: I hate to be the one to say that Hargreaves is not the perfect cornerback, but he isn't so it has to be said. I see him fairly often getting into his back petal late, then opening up his hips late, causing the receiver to get separation from him and be able to make a catch. His light frame also allows a receiver to push off of him in order to get the space they need, and his decent speed is not enough to make up for the lost ground.
Conclusion: One of the best Cornerbacks we've seen in the past couple of years. He can enter the draft this upcoming year and make an immediate impact while starting at the next level. There is know way this guy falls out of the first round, or even the top 10.
Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports
#23 | Tennessee Volunteers | Junior
Height: 5'11" | Weight: 185 |
2014 Stats: 37 Tackles, 16 passes defended
Strengths: Cameron Sutton is a terrific athlete but an even better football player. Sutton has smooth hips to turn and run with most receivers, due to his excellent speed for a cornerback. He is a ball hawk and is dominant in press coverage. The cornerback has a great work ethic and it shows in big games. He has good size for a corner but could stand to put a few pounds on.
Weaknesses: Sutton is an outstanding football player but still has some work to do. The first thing is that he does need to work on his tackling. Sutton comes downfield hard but needs to breakdown and square up to make the tackle. The second thing he needs to do is get stronger, this will allow him to control the wide receiver at the line of scrimmage, and make him even better than he already his at pressing.
Conclusion: A well-sized cornerback with NFL readiness and skills. Also a good return man. I think Sutton is an underrated player, but that will change after this upcoming season. I feel he is in the top 3 at his position in the nation and will definitely prove that this year. This years cornerback class is strong and I think he will also be taken in the first to second round.
Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports
#8 | Florida State Seminoles | Junior
Height: 6'1" | Weight: 200 lbs | Age: 21
2014 Stats: 79 Tackles (9.5 for loss), 12 PBU's
Strengths: He was great as a safety, but he can be even better at corner. Ramsey is a high motor player and speed to match it. He clocked 10.61 in the 100-meter dash for Florida State's track team. Ramsey has great ball skills and a magnet to the football. He has a nice frame at 6'1", 200 lbs. and isn't afraid to use it in run support. He is one of the most gifted players in college football, his combination of his instincts, intensity, passion for the game and pure athleticism has made him one of the most recognized football players in the country.
Weaknesses: In his first season at FSU, Ramsey did play corner, the first freshman to start there since Deion Sanders. Since then, he has started at safety but now for his junior season he is moving back to corner. I am a little worried that his inexperience at the position over the last two years may show, but his natural ability will set in and he can dominate again.
Conclusion: Ramsey was a 5-star recruit coming out of high school, and he has undoubtedly lived up to the hype. Ramsey's intensity and leadership on the field fuels the defense. He is definitely NFL ready and can make a huge impact early at the next level. If Ramsey keeps up his dominance on the field, no doubt in my mind he is a first round pick.
Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
#3 | Senior | Auburn Tigers
Height: 5'10" | Weight: 185 |
2014 Stats: 6 INT's, 11 PBU's
Strengths: Jonathan Jones might be one of the most underrated cornerbacks in the country. Lat year against Mississippi State, jones totaled 5 tackles, 2 interceptions and 2 pass breakups. This performance was one of the best in his career and last year he had 6 interceptions total, 5th most in an Auburn season. Jones plays very well in press coverage and has the ability to go up for a jump ball against a taller receiver, considering he is only 5-foot-10. He mirrors a receiver exceptionally well due to his skilled footwork and usually does not get beat when pressing.
Weaknesses: The Auburn defense is going to be very fast and physical this year, and Jonathan Jones no doubt fits in both of those categories. Although he is one of top cornerbacks, he still has things to improve on. Jones supports the run very well physicality wise, but he needs to work on his tackling in a big way. Jones tends to hit the ball carrier very high, and him being only 185 pounds, that doesn't exactly work all the time.
Conclusion: An already good player that can be even better with some more work. Auburn has a great defensive line and line backing core, which means Jones's stats may be inflated. I don't see Jones being taken in the first round, but I do see him being selected in the late second to third round in the 2016 draft.
Credit: Peter Casey-USA TODAY Sports
#11 | Junior | Virginia Tech Hokies
Height: 5'10" | 195 lbs | Age: 20
2014 Stats: 54 tackles, 15 PBU's
Strengths: The last name "Fuller" is already a well-known name, but it is about to be even more popular. If you did not know, Kendall Fuller is the younger brother of Kyle Fuller, a cornerback for the Chicago Bears who was drafted last year. Fuller stands at 5'10", 195 lbs. and he uses his body at the line of scrimmage very effectively. He is a very fluid corner back that can turn his hips with ease. Fuller can compete with receiver and break on the ball when it is thrown.
Weaknesses: Despite being one of the top corners in the nation, fuller still has flaws in his game that he needs to correct. The first thing is that he tends to be very physical during the receivers route (which can be a good thing), but in this case it's not. Fuller can be very grabby at times and that play will not translate to the next level.
Conclusion: He will have a ton of pressure on him this year to produce for Virginia Tech. VT has a very strong defense and he highlights it. If fuller can put on a few pounds and perfect some facets of his game, I can see him being a 1-2 round draft choice and a lockdown corner.