Too Much Talent? 05.14.01
A close inspection of the 49ers roster leaves me with a weird impression about the safety position. Is it possible that the 49ers have too much talent at this position? Pro Bowl safety, Lance Schulters is a given to start on the squad next season, but who will start beside him. Beside him, the 49ers have a number of up and coming players already under contract including, John Keith, Pierson Prioleau and Ronnie Heard as well as undrafted free agents, Al Blades and JT Thatcher. The team is also aggressively pursuing it's own free agent, Zack Bronson.
Most teams, including the 49ers regularly carry four safeties - two starters and two back ups. With five players who are more than capable of playing the position, and some very promising rookies, this roster position seems to be over stocked.
Lance Schulters the best of the bunch will be battling back from an injury. He hopes to return to form by training camp. The Pro Bowl player is a natural free safety, where he has an eye for the ball and big play making capabilities.
The 49ers are expected to sign Zack Bronson in the coming days, he is the most veteran of the group, and brings a vast knowledge of the 49ers defensive system to the field. Bronson played very well in his second chance as a starter last season, after losing his first shot to John Keith - who was later injured.
John Keith impressed 49ers coaches immediately once he arrived at the team facilities. The hard hitting Keith, is a natural strong safety, which would allow Lance Schulters to play his natural position. Keith quickly won the starting spot last season beating out veteran Zack Bronson. He and Schulters combined to be one of the leagues hardest hitting tandems.
Perison Prioleau has the unique ability to play both safety and the cornerback position. Though he is naturally suited for safety, he is a good covering back, and has been an asset to the team in this way. Prioleau was also used as a kick returner last season.
Ronnie Heard made the team last season as an undrafted free agent. Due to injuries he was thrust into the starting lineup late in the season and excelled at his part. Heard appeared to be a natural playmaker, and was most exciting as a rookie. He would be a valuable addition to the 49ers secondary.
If the team only had to contend with five talents at the safety position, that wouldn't be too hard. Prioleau after all, could overlap as a conerback and there would be enough roster spots. The team however has been quite impressed and enthused about two undrafted free agents this season too. Al Blades and JT Thatcher are two safeties the 49ers were thrilled with landing as undrafted free agents.
The team will have some tough choices to make throughout training camp, and finding the best starting duo, and best backups from this bunch. There will be a ton of competition at this spot, hopefully it wont end up being a distraction to the coaches.