No. 4: Cornerback Rashard Robinson
The 49ers are counting on a second-year player, and former fourth-round draft pick, to be the team’s No. 1 cornerback and the closest thing to a shutdown defensive back.
Rashard Robinson’s importance can’t be overstated.
Defensive coordinator Robert Saleh will feature plenty of Cover 3 coverage schemes which, at times, will load as many as eight defenders in the box. This means a lot of one-on-one coverage for corners, and there won’t always be help over the top.
Fortunately, Robinson did more than just turn a few heads his rookie year. Robinson was the No. 5-ranked rookie entering Week 7 last year, according to Pro Football Focus.
While Robinson’s play sloughed off a bit towards the tail end of the season, he remains a bright spot in what was otherwise a forgettable season.
The good news is this — defensive backs tend to struggle in their rookie years, and it looks as if Robinson has gotten those growing pains out of the way. He’s the closest thing the Niners have to a shutdown corner.
At best, he’ll be a player capable of taking away one side of the field in the passing game. That’s a valuable asset.
Yet if he struggles, the 49ers don’t exactly have a talented crop of defensive backs to relieve him. And so the pass defense may very will live, and die, by how well Robinson plays.