With the many safety acquisitions, one of the UDFA targets for the San Francisco 49ers was Corey Griffin. Coming out of Georgia Tech, Griffin played primarily the strong safety position, but in a recent depth chart by Matt Barrows he is listed as a free safety.
Regardless of what position he plays, Griffin has a shot to get into that safety depth chart. The team drafted Marcell Harris in the 2018 NFL draft, but his Achilles injury makes him a huge question mark. The 49ers already have Jaquiski Tartt, Adrian Colbert, and potentially Jimmie Ward if he fits into a Swiss army knife role. That’s pretty much it though, with Chanceller James looking to build on a solid 2017 training camp that was cut short by a torn ACL.
Griffin has himself a great opportunity to contribute on special teams and learn Robert Saleh’s defense. The 49ers safety depth is a bit questionable, but the current situation makes it ripe for some rookie UDFAs to get themselves a roster spot.
Experience: Rookie season
Weight: 199 lbs
He is in year one of his three-year UDFA deal. His salary for 2018 pays him $480,000.
What to expect in 2018
Griffin will be learning the defense and with any luck, not seeing the field. The 49ers starting safeties are solid, but the depth behind Ward (who is getting more reps at cornerback this year) is definitely a huge question mark. A highlight video I watched shows he’s a ball hawk who hits like a freight train, meaning he’s right at home with this safety group, but he also is a project. His tackling ability works in college, but he’s going to get flattened at the NFL level with the way he approaches some of his hits.
Oftentimes, I also noticed a few of his plays were made with a wide receiver in the vicinity of several other members of the secondary—circus catches like that will not be near as frequent in the NFL and I wonder how he’ll play when he’s on his own or doing support to a fellow cornerback. Finally, and this is simply a matter of opinion, a few of his times when he’s left his man to make a play on the ball seem like he might have just guessed right. If he tries that at the NFL level, especially in the redzone, quarterbacks will eat him alive with pump fakes making him take the bait.
These are ALL things that can be rectified with development. Griffin has some great attributes to bring to this team, but again, a project. Given the safety depth, it’s a matter of if he can bring it to the NFL level and what the other training camp participants can bring in the safety competition.
Odds of making the roster
Being a rookie, Griffin has a much better chance at getting on the roster than say, Antone Exum. Being a rookie, he will have a bit more of a leash on mistakes and the like while Exum, being a veteran will have no future returns, and if both were to compete at the same level for a single spot, tie goes to the young one in this case.
Griffin can provide some decent special teams value while he develops and if he does anything, I see him heading there as a deep backup safety, contributing on special teams. Given his abilities, he definitely could make it to the 49ers practice squad and develop there as well.
If he sees the field, be worried. Be very worried.