San Francisco 49ers: Previewing the 2019 NFL Draft market at safety

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ORLANDO, FL – SEPTEMBER 01: Deionte Thompson #14 of the Alabama Crimson Tide intercepts a pass in the end zone intended for Jaylen Smith #9 of the Louisville Cardinals in the second quarter of the game at Camping World Stadium on September 1, 2018 in Orlando, Florida. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

The San Francisco 49ers didn’t make any high-profile free-agent moves to address shortcomings at safety, meaning the NFL Draft is likely how the team does it in 2019.

In a perfect world, perennial Pro Bowl free safety Earl Thomas would have taken a modest, team-friendly deal and signed with the San Francisco 49ers this offseason.

Instead, Thomas ended up with the Baltimore Ravens, and the Niners were inclined to re-sign defensive back Jimmie Ward as well as hope third-year pro Adrian Colbert bounces back from an otherwise forgettable 2018 campaign.

Maybe this approach works for San Francisco. Or maybe it doesn’t. After all, Ward has ended up on injured reserve in four of his first five pro seasons, while Colbert could end up being a solid depth piece rather than a bona fide starter.

Either way, general manager John Lynch would be wise to strongly consider using the 2019 NFL Draft as a means to reinforce his free safety shortcomings.

A year ago, the Niners had seven different starting safeties. That certainly played a large role in Pro Football Focus ranking San Francisco’s secondary dead last when 2018 was finished. And while there’s modest depth at strong safety, free safety should be Lynch’s biggest priority on this back end of the defense.

Thankfully, there are a number of decent-to-solid options to be had in the draft. It’s highly unlikely the 49ers use their first pick, No. 2 overall, on a safety. Yet things get a bit more interesting with pick No. 36 overall.

So, which players will Lynch and Co. likely be looking at between now and April’s draft? Who are going to be the best fits in San Francisco’s Cover 3, single-high safety scheme?

Let’s take a look, ranking them out by days on which they’ll likely be selected.

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