The 49ers will enter the 2019 offseason looking to shore up a number of positions, most notably positions focused on the defensive side of the ball. The number one priority should be getting an edge rusher who can put consistent pressure on any opposing quarterback (*coughcoughNICKBOSAcough*) - as it’s been noted, an effective pass rush can hide a lot of problems. Many would argue that after addressing the need for a pass rusher that the next position in line that should be addressed is cornerback, which is why we’re going to take a moment to identify some of the top prospects who may see their names called come draft day 2019.
Keep in mind that it is early and things remain extremely fluid (crazy, right?) and, ultimately, this will be only the first of many rankings we will do here. Regardless, let us know what you think in the comments below!
1. Greedy Williams, CB, No. 29 - LSU Height: 6’2” | Weight: 190 lbs. | Projected 40 time: 4.49
The only way I can envision San Francisco taking a swing on Williams is if they trade out of the top 5 to acquire more picks and end up - for whatever reason - not selecting a pass rusher after doing so. Finding a defensive end is far too great a need for John Lynch not to take care of right away so it’s probably safe to assume that we won’t see Greedy Williams rockin’ the red and gold anytime soon. It would be fun, though, to see him line up opposite Richard Sherman for the next few seasons. Williams possesses everything you want in a true number-one cornerback: he has strong, quick hands, speed, quickness, agility, strength at the line of scrimmage, and a knack for just making plays. When he doesn’t intercept the pass, Williams is skilled at slapping the ball away to cause incompletions. He is a confident corner who really challenges wide receivers and quarterbacks. Expect him to be off the board within the first 10 picks.
2. Deandre Baker, CB, No. 18 - Georgia Height: 5’11” | Weight: 190 lbs. | Projected 40 time: 4.55
Entering the 2018 NCAA football season Baker was considered one of the top prospects in the nation and, honestly, did nothing along the way to hurt his draft stock. Much like Williams, Baker utilizes a skillset that can translate well at the next level. While he lacks top-end speed he is extremely physical and does have enough quickness and athleticism to present separation by receivers running routes. For the NFL, Baker fits the vast majority of schemes. He has lined up in off-man coverage, zone and man coverage at the line of scrimmage. Baker would fit well in a scheme that plays off-man and zone coverage as a pro. He would not be a natural fit in a defense that plays a lot of press-man coverage. I’d expect him to be drafted somewhere near the mid-to-late parts of the first round.
3. Byron Murphy, CB, No. 1 - Washington Height: 6’0” | Weight: 175 lbs. | Projected 40 time: 4.48
This is where things get interesting as anyone beyond Williams or Baker can easily be shuffled anywhere within the ranks of prospects being selected between the latter portions of round 1 to the end of round 3. Byron Murphy is a player who should expect to hear his name sometime in the 2nd round. He is a quick and fluid player who has a real knack for finding the ball mid-flight and making a play on it. Despite a smallish frame, Murphy loves to come up and hit and will get low and put his crown in the ball-carriers gut; he’s caused multiple FFs and incompletions with his willingness to drive and strike. He also has good recognition ability which allows him to play so aggressively, and with good press technique. The only downside to him is, as previously mentioned, his size. He will need to add some weight if he wants to produce consistently as a pro.
4. Trayvon Mullen, CB, No. 1 - Clemson Height: 6’1” | Weight: 190 lbs. | Projected 40 time: 4.55
Clemson, as we all know, boasts one of the most impressive front sevens we’ve seen in recent memory and one of the most wildly talented defensive lines in college football history - with help like that it’s hard not to benefit if you’re someone playing in the secondary on that team. Trayvon Mullen, while he benefits from playing behind a star-studded line, does posses all the skills one would want in a starting cornerback. He is long and physical and flourishes most in zone and press coverages; his long arms allow for more margin of error than most. Mullen is a sure tackler and, while he lacks standout speed, he makes up for it with unique ball skills and a keen sense of how plays will develop. He’s going to benefit most from either being in a scheme-specific defense or by, possibly, converting to safety. What’s clear at this point is that Mullen has a skillset worthy of consideration on day 2 of the NFL Draft.
5. Amani Oruwariye, CB No. 21 - Penn State Height: 6’2” | Weight: 195 lbs. | Projected 40 time: 4.58
Oruwariye is someone who could provide nice value for a team selecting in rounds 3-5. In his collegiate career, Oruwariye has totaled eight interceptions, but it’s his awareness and ability to consistently break up pass plays that should have coaches and teams excited about adding him to their rosters. Oruwariye also does well in being aggressive and crowding the receiver while making it difficult for his opponents to get leverage on him at the catch point. Overall, Amani Oruwariye is a highly intelligent and technically-sound player who, despite having lackluster moments when it comes to tackling, has a shot at growing into an excellent corner who is able to cover receivers on the outside.
6. Julian Love, CB, No. 27 - Notre Dame Height: 5’10” | Weight: 189 lbs. | Projected 40 time: 4.42
The Notre Dame Fighting Irish are heading to the College Football Playoff for the first time and thanks are due to some stellar play on the defensive side of the ball. Julian Love is a little bit on the smaller side but he makes up for it with his blazing speed and the surprising amount of strength he has. Love has great technique, sound eye discipline, big playmaking ability, and a knack for just being around the ball. He excels on the special teams side of the ball and, due to his size, will most likely be best-suited as a slot corner. Honestly, though, the guy doesn’t have many weaknesses so don’t be surprised if he starts climbing up draft boards to the point where he’s the first cornerback off the board in round 2.
7. Trevon Diggs, CB, No. 7 - Alabama Height: 6’2” | Weight: 185 lbs. | Projected 40 time: 4.49
Trevon Diggs, brother of Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Stefon Diggs, missed a large portion of 2018 with a broken foot, so we haven’t been able to see much from the Alabama prospect. What we do know, though, is that Diggs showed flashes in 2017 while splitting time on both offense and defense but took a huge leap the following season, his junior year. Before his injury, Diggs had 20 tackles with six passes broken up, one forced fumble and one interception on the season but was also blanketing receivers while showing huge upside for the NFL. There are some scouts who have said that his defensive skills are still raw, but he has potential to grow into a 1st round talent. Depending on how he handles the pre-draft process he could skyrocket into the latter half of the 1st round — if not, he provides a team some good potential value in rounds 2-4.