49ers 2020 ‘Who Is?’ series: DeMarkus Acy a dark-horse sleeper

DeMarkus Acy #2 of the Missouri Tigers (Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images)
DeMarkus Acy #2 of the Missouri Tigers (Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images) /

Did the 49ers discover a gem in undrafted cornerback DeMarkus Acy?

Niner Noise is kicking off its 2020 installment of our “Who Is?” series on San Francisco 49ers players, and we’ll tackle the newest cornerback addition here, Missouri’s DeMarkus Acy.

It was a bit of a shock the Niners didn’t use one of their 2020 NFL Draft picks on a cornerback, which could have turned into a long-term replacement for the aging veteran, Richard Sherman, or perhaps an upgrade over other corners Emmanuel Moseley or Ahkello Witherspoon. Considering both Sherman and Witherspoon are entering contract years, it’s a wonder general manager John Lynch didn’t select a cornerback.

Yet San Francisco quickly grabbed Acy immediately after the draft, and it’s surely possible the former Tiger winds up being the next undrafted find for Lynch and Co.

From a statistical vantage point, Acy probably could have been drafted had he come out after his junior year in 2018 when he posted three interceptions and 10 passes broken up. While he wasn’t as productive his senior year, it wouldn’t have been a stretch to see him picked up by someone in Rounds 6 or 7.

DeMarkus Acy Defense & Fumbles Table
TacklesDef IntFumbles

Provided by CFB at Sports Reference
Generated 5/27/2020.

On the surface, it’s not hard to see why the 49ers quickly pursued Acy. At 6-foot-2 and 195 pounds, he fits the long-limbed and lanky frame type defensive coordinator Robert Saleh prioritizes for his Cover 3 zone-style scheme.

And that might be how San Francisco wants to use him in future years’ development.

DeMarkus Acy Positives for 49ers

Body type is one thing to make note of for Acy. With long arms and a lanky frame, he was able to frequently get in the way of passes thrown in his direction, particularly during his junior year. And while he’s not the fastest player on the field, he rarely shies away from getting physical with his receivers and trying to stay in their back pockets. And his speed, while not necessarily fast, isn’t a massive liability.

On top of that, Missouri didn’t shy away from using him in a variety of roles throughout his collegiate career, adding to the versatility necessary for most depth players on an NFL roster.

DeMarkus Acy Positives for 49ers

Sometimes, his thin frame can create problems at the line of scrimmage when trying to jam receivers in press coverage. Bigger, stronger wideouts can beat him at the line, and Acy doesn’t have the recovery speed and twitch to make up the difference.

You can even watch current Niners wide receiver, Deebo Samuel, beat Acy in the tape below when Missouri played South Carolina in 2018:

Acy can add some functional strength to his body, yet he’s mostly maxed out in his size. Simply put, his build isn’t going to change too much in coming seasons without cutting into his straight-line speed.

Can DeMarkus Acy Make the 49ers Roster in 2020?

San Francisco doesn’t have a lot of proven depth behind Sherman, Moseley and Witherspoon on the boundary, meaning Acy will be competing with fellow defensive backs Jason Verrett and Dontae Johnson during training camp.

That’s not a terrible situation to be in, considering the Niners aren’t necessarily invested heavily in the latter two names. Plus, Sherman and Witherspoon’s uncertain futures beyond 2020 could mean the 49ers invest a little more time in their undrafted free agent.

And having Sherman as a mentor won’t hurt matters, either.

Still, it’s going to be an uphill climb for Acy this training camp. There are a lot of positive traits to like, yes. But considering most defensive backs struggle early in their careers after transitioning to the college ranks, it wouldn’t be surprising at all to see Acy start off his pro career on the practice squad, maybe with the outside chance of filling out the back end of San Francisco’s 53-man roster.

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Yet Acy is one of those players who could easily benefit from a year on the practice squad, potentially earning some valuable experience and honing the raw skills which attracted San Francisco to him.

And if those pan out nicely enough, the 49ers could end up with a quality corner for the foreseeable future.