While a top-tier pass-rusher is the truest of linchpins in coordinator Robert Saleh’s 4-3 Under defense, one could make the argument a quality single-high safety is just as crucial.
The 49ers hoped to get adequate production here in 2018 out of second-year pro Adrian Colbert, who assumed the starting free safety job during the latter half of his rookie season. The problem, though, is Colbert regressed heavily before landing on season-ending injured reserve with a high-ankle sprain.
San Francisco went through a slew of safety tandems over the course of the year, which again prompts the notion this position will be one of need in 2019.
Enter Alabama safety Deionte Thompson, and The Draft Network’s Jon Ledyard’s breakdown will help you understand the fit in a single-high scheme:
"Size, length and speed are impressive. Physical and athletic safety prospect with excellent closing burst on routes breaking in front of him. Plays fast and aggressive. Constantly looking to get in on the action, typical Alabama mindset to dictate terms as a tackler. Has the radius to get runners to the ground by wrapping up outside his frame. Will lower the boom when given the opportunity. Can seamlessly adjust his angle to the ball on the fly."
The 49ers need a high-caliber safety patrolling the last line of the defense. It’s crucial to address some of the secondary woes Saleh and Co. had in 2018.
Of course, a Thompson-to-San Francisco idea would be moot if the Niners are able to lure in pending free-agent safety Earl Thomas this offseason.
But if that doesn’t happen, one shouldn’t rule out Thompson as a possible 49ers Round 1 selection.