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PFF sees Will Redmond as a sleeper for defensive rookie of the year

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Will Redmond' college ACL injury remains an issue, but if he can get on the field quickly this fall, he has a chance to make the kind of high profile plays that can lead to awards.

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The San Francisco 49ers invested heavily in their defense in the 2016 NFL Draft, as they look rebuild the depth of their contender years. The team selected defensive tackle DeForest Buckner, cornerbacks Will Redmond, Rashard Robinson, and Prince Charles Iworah, and defensive end Ronald Blair. Add in Darren Lake and Demetrius Cherry, and there will be plenty of competition along the defensive line and in the secondary.

Tuesday morning, Pro Football Focus discussed three sleeper candidates for defensive rookie of the year. They included 49ers cornerback Will Redmond, along with Sheldon Day and Carl Nassib. They acknowledged that Redmond actually needs to get on the field following last year's ACL injury, but they think he is the most likely of the three cornerbacks to make an immediate impact.

That's not exactly a surprising conclusion. Redmond flashed a lot of skills prior to his ACL tear, so if he does get back to 100 percent, it makes sense that he could be that guy. Rashard Robinson has a ton of raw skills, but he also hasn't played in 18 months. There is more of a development curve for Robinson. With Redmond, he hasn't missed nearly as much time. Here's what PFF had to say about the rookie from Mississippi State:

He tore his ACL after seven games of his final season in college, but before that misfortune, had demonstrated one of the quickest breaks on the ball and earliest reads on the pass of any corner in this class. Defensive Rookie of the Year is often about the big plays you make rather than the bad ones—think Marcus Peters winning it this past season with a league-leading eight interceptions, despite being second in the NFL in TDs allowed (eight), third in yards allowed (939), and third in catches surrendered (69).

Redmond will give up some plays, but he also allowed just 48.3 percent of passes thrown his way to be caught over the past two seasons, and has the kind of break on the ball to make big plays and earn a run of interceptions if he sees the field early and gets picked on by NFL quarterbacks.

Annual honors do not always end up going to the "best" player, but rather the most high profile player. Sometime that is the same person, but a few flashy plays can be the difference in winning some of these awards. If Redmond is healthy enough to get onto the field, he certainly could find himself getting picked on as a rookie.

Jimmie Ward has been getting outside corner work, even when the team goes into the nickel. That could open the door for a new slot cornerback this fall. I could see plenty of rotation in the secondary, but there are some opportunities if Redmond can get on the field. He has not been taking part in team drills in the offseason workout program, so we are likely left to wait until training camp to see what his status is. My guess is he will be placed on the NFI list at the start of camp. Trent Baalke has been optimistic about his recovery, so he could quickly be removed, but the 49ers will likely place him on the list to cover themselves just in case. If they do not place him on the NFI list to start camp, they cannot later add him if the knee remains an issue.