Niner Noise’s annual “Who Is?” series on San Francisco 49ers players shifts focus to cornerback Will Redmond and whether or not he can make an impact in 2017.
San Francisco 49ers cornerback Will Redmond might have been one of the final strikes against former general manager Trent Baalke’s tenure in Santa Clara.
Taken in Round 3 of the 2016 NFL Draft, Redmond was yet another of Baalke’s infamous “All-ACL” selections — players coming off a collegiate injury, whom Baalke felt would be a steal after their respective recoveries.
In fact, according to Eric Branch of SFGate.com, Baalke felt Redmond’s injury wasn’t going to be serious enough to hold the former Mississippi State defensive back out of training camp that year:
So much for false promises.
Baalke is gone now, but Redmond remains.
With a new coaching staff in place, and a new front office running the show, Redmond will have to prove himself worthy of consideration as the Niners reformulate their roster heading into this season.
Traditionally, San Francisco has worked young corners into the nickel spot their rookie seasons. This is presumably where Redmond will compete, although he has some competition. One of the moves made by the 49ers brass was to bring in free-agent slot corner K’Waun Williams earlier this offseason.
This is likely to be Redmond’s chief competition during training camp. So what can we learn from this position battle and where does Redmond stack up when evaluating the 2017 depth chart?
Let’s take a look.
San Francisco 49ers
Why He’ll Improve
Redmond might have been a fringe first-round pick in 2016 had it not been for his collegiate injury, as NFL.com’s Daniel Jeremiah suggested. His 6-foot-0, 186-pound frame is ideal for slot duties, and this is likely where he’d line up.
While it’s not necessarily an endorsement for Redmond, the Santa Rosa Press Democrat’s Grant Cohn reported Williams was having some early difficulties during organized team activities.
This could put Redmond in a position where he climbs the depth chart. Assuming the ACL is healed enough, the second-year pro may wind up finding himself in a position to earn the starting job this season.
Why He’ll Regress
Williams has the benefit of being a hand-picked member by this new regime. And while he didn’t play in 2016, Williams has shown a lot of ability at the NFL level.
Redmond doesn’t have this luxury.
As an unproven commodity, Redmond also has to overcome his collegiate injury — something very few of Baalke’s injury picks have done up to this point. Sure, Redmond could be among the first to spoil the stereotype here. But there’s a stronger chance of him being merely a fringe player and little more than an OK backup.
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What to Expect in 2017
The 49ers could keep both Williams and Redmond on the 53-man roster this season, especially considering the depth at corner is relatively thin and young.
But Redmond’s size limits him largely to inside duties, where he’d often be matched up against smaller receivers. The same goes for Williams too, and it’s not quite likely the Niners have both stay on the roster.
If Redmond wins out, he likely starts at nickel. And that’s fine.
However, the 49ers are likely going to focus their attention on defensive backs who have the capability to stay close in man-on-man coverage, which might be difficult, considering Redmond’s injury.
Training camp will reveal a lot more, but it appears as if Redmond is nowhere close to being a lock on the roster this season.