The 49ers are in a much better situation when it comes to the defensive backfield on their team than they have been in recent memory. Last season's draftees, Ahmed Plummer and Jason Webster look solid at their positions, and backups Monty Montgomery, Pierson Prioleau and Anthony Parker are solid. The 49ers may not be able to bring back all of these players and thus drafting a cornerback is still likely in this off-season's draft. Ideally, the team would like a player who could push Plummer and Webster for a starting position, but with so many other needs to fill, they will more likely draft a cornerback who can back these two up, and be groomed for the future.
This years' draft class is headed by Fred Smoot a very solid cornerback from Mississippi State that has been likened to Deion Sanders, as well as Jamar Fletcher from Wisconsin who plays like Champ Bailey. These two are likely going to go rather high in the draft and should make an impact regardless of what team they land on. Providing any of the corners on the following list are available after some of the more pressing needs of the 49ers are filled, it would be in the best interest of the team to select one.
Fred Smoot…5'11"…172 lbs… 4.44/40
Smoot is one of the best cover corners to come out of college in recent years. He excels when playing man to man, using his good instincts and smarts to make plays. He has good hands, and breaks on the ball well. He's fast, but not a speedster - yet still seems to always be where he needs to be. He is willing to take chances, but calculates the carefully and will not take a chance he cannot recover from. Does not play the run, will stick with his receiver no matter what (good for play actions bad on run plays) and is loud moth. A solid addition to any secondary, but the team should not rely on him to be part of the run stopping game.
Jamar Fletcher…5'9"…180 lbs… 4.46/40
Fletcher is one of the most technically sound players at his position. He knows the cornerback position like the back of his hands, and uses his knowledge to bait receivers to do what he wants. He plays bigger than he is, and at 5'9" that's really important. He is willing to mix it up in run coverage and is willing to return kicks. Fletcher is small and can be out jumped for the ball, he also plays with a big cushion that helps keep plays in front of him, but in some cases makes him easy to exploit on a quick slant.
Nate Clements…5'11.1/4"…209 lbs… 4.28/40
Clements probably has the best natural tools of any cornerback in this years draft. He has good size, great strength and excellent speed. Amazingly, Clements is even faster in a game than his 4.28 /40 time would suggest. As a corner, Clements relies a little too much on his natural ability, and needs some serious coaching to make an impact on the next level. He falls for two many double moves, and does not calculate angles well. He also must learn how to get into the backfield with a better burst given his raw tools. He has good ball skills, and will win a close battle.
Ken Lucas…6'0.1/14"…200 lbs… 4.44/40
Lucas switched from wide receiver to cornerback in 1998. His hands and ability to go after the ball are thus far above average. He is still raw in his coverage abilities though, and will grow much with solid NFL coaching. He has great size, and amazing speed given his size. He rarely gives up on his receiver because of a play action fake. Along with working on some coverage skills, Lucas has the tendency to shy away from contact, and will need to change that to excel at the next level.
Tay Cody…5'9.1/4"…181 lbs… 4.55/40
Cody is a very intelligent corner, who knows the game inside and out. He is rarely fooled by opponents and reads the quarterback well. He has good coverage ability, and can be left on an island. He is a polished corner that could start in the NFL tomorrow if need be. Unfortunately, he lacks a little size that makes going up against bigger corners more difficult. Cody may excel more as a nickel back but would be a solid addition to a team looking for someone who could contribute immediately.
Will Allen…5'10.1/4"…192 lbs… 4.29/40
Allen is an incredibly fast cornerback who is also a track star. His speed helps him in returning kicks too. Allen is extremely coachable but a raw talent. He needs work in man coverage and in run support. His speed is really what catches peoples eye, as it along with his sheer athletic talent allow him to make up for many of his mistakes. Allen can excel at the next level but will need solid coaching to do so.
Andre Dyson…5'10"…174 lbs… 4.33/40
Andre is the brother of Titan's Kevin Dyson. Andre is a solid corner with above average cover skills. He is quick, fast, and shows good ball awareness. He is willing to mix it up against the run, but lacks the size to really make an impact in this area. His size is a liability against larger receivers too. He does however have good hands, and is a play maker, if he had the size, would be a much higher draft pick.
Willie Middlebrooks…6'1.3/4"…200 lbs… 4.5/40
Middlebrooks is a big corner who is very talented. He plays a physical game and uses his size to disrupt receivers routes. He does have a large upside but needs work on his footwork and in reacting to receivers positioning. Middlebrook had a late season injury that could hurt his positioning in the draft. Has the ability, but will need solid coaching to prosper at the next level.
Liguarius Jennings…5'9.1/2"…202 lbs… 4.66/40
Jennings is an above average cover corner who plays physically. He plays aggressively and that sometimes benefits him, but other times hinder him. He is not very fast, but has a flair for the game. Jennings is not an asset against the run. He could advance at the next level but will need to learn when and when not to gamble on plays.
William Peterson…6'0"…197 lbs… 4.45/40
Peterson is a very talented cornerback with good speed and strength. He uses his size to his advantage and will participate in the run game, though lacks some ability in that area. He is effective at going up for the ball, and has good hands. He has all the physical tools to excel at the next level but needs to work on learning the position better. He will sometimes take a chance at the wrong time and be burned because of it. He has average recovery speed, and in some cases simply can't make up for his mistakes. Has some off the field troubles that could lower his ranking. Has all the physical tools to make it at the next level, but does need more time.
The 49ers don't have a dire need for a cornerback as they selected three over the last two seasons. The team will however be looking for someone to push the starters and possibly begin as a backup. Any of the corners on this list should be a valuable asset to the 49ers. The team should fully analyze the situation with Montgomery, Prioleau and Parker before making a decision on who and where they should draft a cornerback.
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