The San Francisco 49ers have been regularly linked with Ohio State safety Malik Hooker at the No. 2 pick in mock drafts, but there remains some debate about the position. Some draft analysts think Jamal Adams is a better safety. And now, we can add Mike Mayock with a third opinion.
The NFL Network draft analyst released his updated position rankings last week, and he ranked Michigan defensive player Jabrill Peppers as the top safety. He has Adams second and Hooker third, with Connecticut’s Obi Melifonwu fourth and a tie for fifth between Utah’s Marcus Williams and Florida’s Marcus Maye. Mayock had Hooker first last time, but swapped him with Peppers.
Peppers has played safety before, but he spent a lot of time this season playing linebacker. He worked out with both the linebacker and safety position groups at the 2017 NFL Combine. He’s a guy who could operate in a hybrid role that teams are trying to use more and more as defenses adjust to offensive innovation.
Holding the No. 2 pick gives the 49ers a lot of options if they want beef up the back-end of their defense. Malik Hooker seems to be the best “center-field” option, while Adams and Peppers seem better suited closer to the line. The 49ers have Eric Reid and Jaquiski Tartt competing for safety work, and still could decide to move Jimmie Ward back deep.
If they were to draft Hooker, I imagine Ward stays at cornerback. But if they were to draft someone like Adams or Peppers, does Reid stay at free safety? And what in turn happens with Tartt? The 49ers new coaching staff and front office are not beholden to any previous high draft picks, so it’s not a huge deal. But, we don’t know yet what they think of Tartt, Reid, or anybody else on this defense. The interminable wait for the draft continues!