49ers cornerbacks: Backups and role players
The San Francisco 49ers have a limited number of viable backup cornerbacks on their current roster. Two of the three corners have less than a half season of NFL experience at the position, and the third CB is in need of a major rebound in 2019:
Outside cornerback: Ahkello Witherspoon
Ahkello Witherspoon‘s third NFL season will likely determine his future in the league. Depending on the 49ers’ offseason additions and the cornerback’s performance in the lead-up to the regular season, Witherspoon could easily find himself on the field, on the bench or in street clothes on game days. As a third-round pick in 2016, Witherspoon will have a spot on San Francisco’s roster, but his role with the team is in a state of flux.
Outside cornerback / Safety: Tarvarius Moore
Rookie defensive back Tarvarius Moore‘s transition from safety to cornerback didn’t come to fruition until the final three games of the 2018 season. The transition was far from smooth, as opposing quarterbacks picked on the youngster while he logged valuable reps. Before he was afforded the opportunity to play extensively on the outside, Moore was used at times as a box safety in obvious passing situations, where he appeared more comfortable. The hard-hitting speedster also carved out a significant role on special teams during the season. Moore is a second-day draft selection who was expected to take time to develop, so his roster spot is safe, but he needs to show development at cornerback during his second year in the league.
Slot cornerback / Free safety: D.J. Reed
After playing his college career on the outside, defensive back D.J. Reed split his time during his rookie season between slot cornerback and free safety. Overall, Reed fared well for a fifth-round draft pick who was forced to learn two new positions in his first year in the NFL. Reed didn’t find a home at either spot, but his versatility and value as a late-round selection should be enough for the sophomore to secure a roster spot in 2019, even if the 49ers add significant talent to the secondary over the offseason.
Outside cornerback: Free agent or 2019 NFL Draft pick
Particularly if Reed’s main role is at free safety, the 49ers will likely add a sixth traditional cornerback to the final 53-man roster. If San Francisco goes all-in with a high-priced veteran cornerback in free agency, the final roster spot will likely be filled by a mid-round selection from the upcoming draft. If the Niners’ front office drafts a cornerback early and signs a less-expensive veteran to compete for a starting job, this slot will belong to the player who loses the starting competition.
Practice squad candidates / Players who missed the cut
Jimmie Ward – Too expensive and always injured, Ward needs a change of scenery.
Tyvis Powell – Willing tackler but needs to improve coverage skills.
Greg Mabin – Will likely be re-signed for preseason work due to his contract status. Mabin was respectable for two games but was abysmal for the remainder of the 2018 season.
Emmanuel Moseley – Practice squad candidate.