49ers’ 2019 ‘Who Is?’ series: Defensive back Tarvarius Moore

SANTA CLARA, CA - DECEMBER 09: Tarvarius Moore #33 of the San Francisco 49ers celebrates after a defensive play against the Denver Broncos at Levi's Stadium on December 9, 2018 in Santa Clara, California. (Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images)
SANTA CLARA, CA - DECEMBER 09: Tarvarius Moore #33 of the San Francisco 49ers celebrates after a defensive play against the Denver Broncos at Levi's Stadium on December 9, 2018 in Santa Clara, California. (Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images) /

The San Francisco 49ers elected not to serious address their free safety spot this offseason, opening up the door for defensive back Tarvarius Moore to assume the role in 2019 and perhaps beyond.

Speed was the primary reason the San Francisco 49ers selected former Southern Mississippi defensive back Tarvarius Moore in Round 3 of the 2018 NFL Draft.

Moore, who ended up running a 4.32 40-yard time during his pro day, quickly shot up draft boards from a likely fifth- or sixth-round pick, all the way into a day-two prospect, when the Niners jumped.

At 6-foot-2 and 200 pounds, San Francisco hoped the former collegiate free safety could make the transition to boundary cornerback — a position he never played in college — and a potential long-term replacement for the veteran, Richard Sherman.

Well, Moore’s transition didn’t exactly turn heads, and he saw only limited action his rookie season despite the numerous problems the 49ers experienced within their secondary.

Tarvarius Moore Defense & Fumbles Table

Provided by Pro-Football-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/18/2019.

Pro Football Focus ended up awarding Moore with a 52.1 overall grade his rookie season, which is a far cry from what San Francisco hoped to get from its third-round pick.

During the offseason, the Niners did little to address their secondary, essentially only grabbing oft-injured cornerback Jason Verrett in free agency and signing former Virginia corner Tim Harris late in the 2019 draft.

But injuries during organized team activities, particularly safety Jimmie Ward‘s broken collarbone, led to the 49ers bumping Moore back to his original free safety spot.

Does he stay there this season. More importantly, will he thrive in the rediscovered role?

Why Tarvarius Moore Improves in 2019

Defensive backs often struggle transitioning from the collegiate ranks to the pros. The receivers being covered are both bigger and stronger, the routes are far more complex and the overall game speed is tremendously faster.

Asking Moore to change positions so early in his development could have been detrimental. So getting back to a level of familiarity should do some good.

Consider the traits NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein broke down in Moore’s 2018 draft profile, fitting them into a free safety role:

"Moore is a premium athlete with smooth hips and fluid feet with the ability to handle man cover matchups that others could struggle with. While there is still work to do, he’s not a raw prospect and should be game-ready fairly quickly. Moore’s tape shows his ability to handle coverage and run support duties and his elite athletic traits will likely push him way up the draft board into Day 2."

Moore looked more comfortable keeping action in front of him, which he wasn’t always able to do in limited reps as a cornerback.

If Moore stays at safety, there’s a good chance he winds up showcasing a massive leap in prowess from his rookie season.

Why Tarvarius Moore Regresses

Even though Moore was a natural safety in college, he had just one season as a starter there. All told, he remains inexperienced, even if this switch winds up being permanent.

Moore also won’t have the bonus of press coverage and locking himself into the back pocket of a receiver. He’ll need to rely more on his instincts, correctly reading plays and avoiding the kinds of mistakes San Francisco’s other safeties so frequently made over the course of 2018.

He was never particularly effective in coverage either, and it wouldn’t be totally shocking to see him struggle just as much at the back end of the defense, given the importance of this position in coordinator Robert Saleh’s defense.

Expected Role with the 49ers in 2019

Saleh was non-committal answering whether or not Moore’s transition to safety would be permanent.

So it’s anyone’s guess if Moore winds up finding himself as a candidate to potentially start at free safety this season. Ward’s injury opens up the door for increased looks here during training camp, and the Niners would like some sort of long-term option in the backfield anyway. And while third-year pro Adrian Colbert could also bounce back from an otherwise forgettable 2018 campaign, finding some quality depth would be nice, too.

Moore might wind up serving this capacity, which isn’t exactly a bad thing, considering the 49ers had a shortage of depth at safety last year, starting a total of seven over the course of 16 games.

An educated guess would suggest Saleh wants to see Moore thrive in this role, thereby allowing some of the Niners’ other corners to compete for boundary spots and possibly giving the team a long-term option at free safety.

If Moore doesn’t quite live up to expectations, that’s OK. His presence at least adds to that much-needed depth.

dark. Next. Redrafting the 49ers' 2017 NFL Draft class two years later

The 49ers are hoping for more of a presence, of course.