We talk about the first overall pick a ton. The draft pick at the top of the second round is far more interesting, and for a number of reasons. First off, there is plenty of unknown. In the first round, it’s all but a given the 49ers select somebody to rush the passer opposite of Dee Ford. In the following round, though, the team could go a few different directions. There might be a situation where a stud player falls that you just can’t afford to pass up. Even if he’s not at a position of need.
For this article, we’ll narrow it down to three positions. Cornerback, wide receiver, and safety. Let’s start opposite of Richard Sherman.
The 49ers have Richard Sherman. He’s good. Opposite of that, they have a pair of up and coming, athletic but green, lanky corners. Both Ahkello Witherspoon and Tarvarious Moore were inconsistent. Both are far too young and talented to give up on. It’s just time to bring in competition. I think this is also more about upgrading from K’haun Williams, too. John Lynch mentioned that Jason Verrett can play in the slot. So if he’s healthy, expect Verret to play there. For insurance purposes, it’d be wise to bring in another body to cover your bases on Verrett but also still improve the depth and competition at the position. This is a strong cornerback class.
The numbers suggest there needs to be an upgrade at both positions. I’m well aware that there were miscommunications and a rookie playing. If Moore/Witherspoon continue to develop, that’s an upgrade. That counts. Here’s some numbers on the 49ers CBs from last year:
Using FootballOutsiders DVOA, the 49ers were 26th in the league at defending #2 WRs, and 31st at defending all other WRs. Our own Oscar said the 49ers were dead last in the NFL in EPA per play when opposing offenses targeted wide receivers.
Names like Julian Love make sense out of Notre Dame. Love is one of the best zone corners in the draft. He also broke the schools record for pass-breakups. Lynch made it clear during the introductory press conference that the team is looking for guys to take the ball away. But there is plenty of talent out there. Jamel Dean from Auburn is my guy. But names like Deandre Baker, Rock Ya-Sin, Travon Mullen. Some very capable players should be available.
Does it feel right to take a WR back-to-back years in the draft? Or does that matter at all? I’m not sure. What I am sure about is that there should be some names that will be available that will make Kyle Shanahan drool. N’Keal Harry is probably a name to get familiar with. Maybe the “other” Ole Miss WR A.J. Brown. There’s Hakeem Butler out of Iowa State. I could go on and on.
I don’t like it.
I’m not a big fan of referencing points per game to judge if an offense was successful. Just because there are too many factors that go in to that. Every stat is flawed, whether EPA or yards per play. They at least give you an idea of, though. I like yards per drive. It tells me that you are moving the ball and consistently getting first downs. In 2018 the 49ers were 13th in yards per drive. They just couldn’t convert those yards into touchdowns. The teams that did either have a top-tier QB or a superstar. Shanahan being able to be that productive with the quarterbacks he had is nothing short of amazing.
Which gets back to the point. With a deep WR class, and far more pressing needs in the secondary, WR here seems more like a luxury pick than a team building pick.
Receivers with over 500 yards as a rookie drafted in the third round or later just last year: Michael Gallup, Antonio Callaway, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Robert Foster. Unless a game changer falls, it would be wise to take a chance later in the draft and avoid spending a premium pick on a player that Shanahan will end up scheming open anyways.
Last line of defense
An understatement is me saying the 49ers can improve their safety play in 2019. They need to get out of the mindset that they need to find an Earl Thomas clone and get a guy that is just good at football. Find a safety that can do a bit of everything. In today’s NFL, if you can’t tackle, you are a liability. If you can only add value by playing the deep center field role, that’s only helping on about 10-15 plays a game. Finding guys that can cover underneath should be just as important.
The top of the second should be the sweet spot for the 49ers and finding a safety. Deionte Thompson out of Alabama, who may not last if he runs fast at Alabama’s Pro Day next Tuesday, fits about as well as you can ask. Thompson is known for his range and taking the ball away. Hello. Washington’s Taylor Rapp might be the most aware safety. Another guy that can drop down in the slot and play really good coverage. I’m not as high on Nasir Adderly, but there is Chauncey Gardner Johnson from Florida, and my favorite safety so far, Darnell Savage Jr. The way Lynch described how Kwon Alexander flies around and his play is infectious, makes me think that the team would strongly consider Savage blew up the combine and is as physical as they come.
took awhile, but finally found a safety i can stan for. maryland's darnell savage brings it. disguises his responsibilities but has #datburst. heedy player that's aggressive but not reckless. lot of first round traits in his game. pic.twitter.com/UUrcFoWEuG— KP (@KP_Show) March 11, 2019
I would go S/CB/WR. Obviously, if a player I’m in love with falls, I go that. But “take the best player” is always what we say until it’s at a position that doesn’t make sense. So for arguments sake, I’ll go secondary. What say you?
What position should the 49ers select with their second round draft pick?
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