4 mistakes 49ers can’t afford to make in 2021 NFL Draft
By Peter Panacy
No. 2: 49ers can’t ignore cornerback needs as they did in 2020
Yes, the 49ers re-signed free-agent cornerbacks Jason Verrett, K’Waun Williams and Emmanuel Moseley this offseason. Dontae Johnson is back, too, to bolster the depth chart.
Aside from Moseley, who is back on a two-year deal, the remaining players are all signed to one-year deals. On top of that, both Verrett and Williams have injury histories. Despite playing a relatively injury-free 2020 campaign, Verrett’s chronic injury history limited him to just six regular-season games between 2016 and 2019, while Williams missed eight games last year because of various setbacks.
The Niners have three picks between Rounds 1 and 3. And with the first one likely to be used on a quarterback, at least one of the next two has to be spent on a cornerback.
We can essentially rule out top-prospect corners like Alabama’s Patrick Surtain II and South Carolina’s Jaycee Horn now. But there are still some high-caliber options potentially available in Rounds 2 and 3. Names like Florida State’s Asante Samuel Jr., Syracuse’s Ifeatu Melifonwu, Georgia’s Eric Stokes or even Stanford’s Paulson Adebo could help matters a lot.
Frequently, young defensive backs tend to struggle to transition from the college ranks to the pros. The coverage schemes are more complex while opposing pass-catchers are bigger, stronger, faster and have better technique. Getting one or two corners now would guard against the need to rely on rookies in 2022.
San Francisco passed on drafting a cornerback in 2020. It shouldn’t do so again in 2021.