49ers 2019 NFL Draft prospect profile: Safety Johnathan Abram

STARKVILLE, MS - OCTOBER 06: Johnathan Abram #38 of the Mississippi State Bulldogs celebrates during the second half against the Auburn Tigers at Davis Wade Stadium on October 6, 2018 in Starkville, Mississippi. (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)
STARKVILLE, MS - OCTOBER 06: Johnathan Abram #38 of the Mississippi State Bulldogs celebrates during the second half against the Auburn Tigers at Davis Wade Stadium on October 6, 2018 in Starkville, Mississippi. (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images) /

It wouldn’t be a shock to see the San Francisco 49ers grab a safety in the 2019 NFL Draft, and Mississippi State’s Johnathan Abram is a realistic target on day two.

The San Francisco 49ers‘ actions in free agency, or lack thereof, suggest a real possibility general manager John Lynch is looking to add a quality free safety at some point early in the 2019 NFL Draft.

Lynch’s only notable actions were to re-sign defensive backs Antone Exum and Jimmie Ward, pairing them with third-year pro Adrian Colbert in a pending battle for the starting job.

This isn’t exactly a long-term solution. And while Lynch could merely be tabling this major need for his defense for another year, it’s also just as possible the Niners use one of their earlier picks on a top safety prospect in the draft, too.

Perhaps someone like Mississippi State’s Johnathan Abram.

Bleacher Report’s Matt Miller’s latest big board has Abram ranked as the No. 27 overall prospect, meaning there’s an excellent chance he slips into Round 2 where the 49ers are slated to pick fourth in the round, No. 36 overall.

Johnathan Abram Defense & Fumbles Table
TacklesDef IntFumbles
*2017Mississippi StateSECJRDB124328715.02.0000502
*2018Mississippi StateSECSRS135346999.03.0294.50511
Mississippi State967417014.05.0294.501013

Provided by CFB at Sports Reference: View Original Table
Generated 4/14/2019.

Abram even made it to San Francisco in one of Niner Noise’s recent mock drafts, falling into the second round.

If that were to happen, what kind of player would the Niners be getting?

Johnathan Abram’s Strengths

At 5-foot-11 and 205 pounds, Abram is a hard-hitting and physical defensive back, who plays a lot like a linebacker, but boasts excellent sideline-to-sideline speed. He ran a 4.45 40-yard time at the NFL Scouting Combine, and those sub-4.50 times are what you typically want to see from defensive backs.

Abram’s footwork is also top notch, which helps him avoid problems in quick-area changes and reacting to opposing receivers’ routes.

You can get the idea in the Pro Football Focus video below:

In addition to his technique, Abram doesn’t shy away from being physical. And it’s common to see him maintain this kind of on-field effort against both the pass and the run.

Johnathan Abram’s Weaknesses

Slightly undersized for an every-down defensive back not in nickel formations, Abram’s physical style could cause some problems at the NFL level.

At times, Abram can get a bit overaggressive, leading to bad angles and missed tackles. One can also see how the injury bug might wind up being an issue for Abram as well.

While Abram’s change-of-direction speed is good, he can struggle a bit in one-on-one coverage, which could limit him to more of a zone-style scheme instead of pure man coverage. That might not be terrible for a back-end safety, per se, but it could be something that limits a team like San Francisco in the ways it would choose to use him.

Stats aren’t quite there, either, as Abram posted just two interceptions over two years at Mississippi State. This can’t be an end-all, be-all factor, of course, but it does suggest he’s not quite the ballhawk a team like the Niners need at their back end.

Projecting Fit with the 49ers

As noted earlier, it appears as if Lynch is either postponing needs at free safety until 2020 or is banking on finding a good fit in this year’s NFL Draft.

Assuming the latter is the case and Abram is the target, there are good enough reasons to think Abram would fit into defensive coordinator Robert Saleh’s Cover 3 scheme.

First, that center-field safety needs sideline-to-sideline range to be effective. Abram checks that box. Plus, there also needs to be a certain level of “punishment” from this position, which Abram isn’t afraid to deliver.

Over a year or two, Abram might be able to hone in the overaggressive tendencies and focus more on natural instincts, simply using his physicality when the situation calls for it. Doing so would help preserve his frame, while also lessening the risk for those missed tackles and such.

Either way, if Abram winds up being San Francisco’s pick in Round 2, it wouldn’t be a bad move at all.

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The 2019 NFL Draft kicks off on Thursday, April 25 with Rounds 2 and 3 taking place the following day.