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49ers post-free agency position review: Cornerback

The 49ers were quiet at the cornerback position in free agency. What can we expect in the 2017 NFL Draft?

The San Francisco 49ers were quite busy in free agency, but not entirely in the way some expected. The 49ers were connected to some notable cornerbacks on the open market, but the only cornerback they added was K’Waun Williams in the period before free agency opened.

The 49ers lack a big name lockdown cornerback, and given the defense’s overall struggles last season, there has been suggestion they would invest heavily in the position. Right now, the 49ers cornerback depth chart includes:

Tramaine Brock
Jimmie Ward
Rashard Robinson
K’Waun Williams
Will Redmond
Keith Reaser
Dontae Johnson
JaCorey Shepherd
Prince Charles Iworah

There has been some talk about moving Ward to free safety. Both John Lynch and Kyle Shanahan think Ward has the skills to handle the position, but both agree they need to get him on the field before they can make any kind of firm decision. If Ward moves to free safety, that increases the need for a serious option at cornerback.

That being said, the team’s addition of K’Waun Williams raises some interesting possibilities. Williams is likely going to compete for the slot corner role with Will Redmond, Keith Reaser, and others. If Ward moved to free safety, the 49ers would likely start Rashard Robinson and Tramaine Brock on the outside. It is of course worth noting that we don’t know how the 49ers front office feels about anybody on the roster given the change from last year. So, in some ways, it remains a lot of guess work.

2017 NFL Draft

This year’s cornerback draft class is viewed as arguably the deepest in recent memory. The 49ers could invest the No. 2 pick in someone like Marshon Lattimore, but if they wanted to wait, there is a lot of talent that could be there at No. 34 in the second round. Here are the top cornerbacks in Mike Mayock’s position rankings:

1. Marshon Lattimore, Ohio State
2. Marlon Humphrey, Alabama
3. Kevin King, Washington
4. Gareon Conley, Ohio State
5. Fabian Moreau, UCLA

One of the big question marks now is Washington’s Sidney Jones. He was in competition to be the first cornerback off the board, but a recent torn Achilles could drop him into day two, or even potentially early day three. If the 49ers were inclined to grab him as a stash opportunity, he could potentially replace Tramaine Brock, whose contract expires after this season.

Some other potential day two prospects could include:

Cordrea Tankersley, Clemson
Chidobe Awuzie, Colorado
Teez Tabor, Florida
Adoree’ Jackson, USC
Jourdan Lewis, Michigan
TreDavious White, LSU

Deeper down, Ahkello Witherspoon (Colorado) is someone who Mike Mayock said prior to the Combine has the length that teams in the Seahawks style defense like to see. He is being projected in early day three, so that might be someone to keep an eye on as the draft progresses.

There have been some mock drafts suggesting the 49ers could go after Marshon Lattimore at No. 2. I would have no problem with adding a lockdown cornerback, but it might depend on how exactly the team plans on using Jimmie Ward, Eric Reid, and Jaquiski Tartt. If they keep Ward at cornerback, do they then go Malik Hooker in a center-field role, and rotate Reid and Tartt closer to the box? If they move Ward to free safety, do they grab a highly touted talent like Lattimore, or wait on an incredibly deep class? And even if they keep Ward at cornerback, are they even sold on the rest of the group to not consider a high pick on the position?

Like much of the roster, there is talent, but there are lots of questions.