49ers must look at Shakur Brown as late NFL Draft sleeper

Michigan State's Shakur Brown Mandatory Credit: USA Today Sports
Michigan State's Shakur Brown Mandatory Credit: USA Today Sports /

The 49ers should keep tabs on cornerback Shakur Brown in the NFL Draft as a potential long-term replacement for K’Waun Williams.

The San Francisco 49ers would be wise to invest at least one of their nine picks in the 2021 NFL Draft.

And it wouldn’t be a bad idea to invest in at least two, considering veteran corners Jason Verrett and K’Waun Williams returned in free agency on one-year deals and have a notable history of injuries.

Armed with five picks on day three of the draft, one player the Niners should have eyes on is Michigan State cornerback Shakur Brown, who could be quite the sleeper add with some awfully solid potential to be another one of those hidden-gem finds.

There are a number of things working against Brown being selected on day two of the draft, namely his size. At 5-foot-11 and 190 pounds, he probably projects more as a nickel cornerback. And those players tend to draw far less attention than boundary corners.

Shakur Brown Defense & Fumbles Table
TacklesDef IntFumbles
*2018Michigan StateBig TenFRCB74260.00.016969.01000
*2019Michigan StateBig TenSOCB7158232.02.011010.00500
2020Michigan StateBig TenJRCB7196250.00.0510721.40400
CareerMichigan State3816542.02.0718626.61900

Provided by CFB at Sports Reference
Generated 4/6/2021.

On top of that, Brown had essentially just one full season as a starter and is still relatively inexperienced.

But the intangible traits and upside are certainly there.

How 49ers can target Shakur Brown to replace K’Waun Williams

Williams, who’ll turn 30 years old before the start of the regular season, missed eight games last year with various injuries. Despite him being a vital part of San Francisco’s defense, now would be a good time to start considering a long-term replacement.

While Brown pegs as a nickel cornerback, he does have experience on the boundary and can double there in a pinch if need be. That’s a bonus.

So is Brown’s fearlessness and ability as a nickel blitzer, which shows up on tape and was something the 49ers experimented at times with Williams, too:

What also stands out about Brown is his tenacity, as he often appears as if every snap he sees will be his last. Not afraid to contest bigger and taller receivers at the catch point, Brown also displays another trait Williams has long possessed: playing bigger than his size would indicate.

The aggressiveness was also there in 2019, too, but it was pretty evident Brown wasn’t quite as polished as he appeared in 2020.

Perhaps the most nagging question now is whether or not last year was an indication of what kind of player he’ll be at the NFL level. Or, if 2019 was more the norm while 2020 was the anomaly, if he’ll have difficulty adjusting to the more complex routes and coverage schemes he’ll encounter at the pro level.

Still, Brown has done more than enough to warrant strong consideration from a team like the 49ers in Round 5, perhaps even sooner. And with the Niners still benefiting from Williams’ presence for at least one more year, a player like Brown wouldn’t have to step in right away and be asked to contribute.

Instead, he could occupy a vital depth role with the hopes of taking over starting nickel duties in 2022 after his acclimated to the pros for a full season.

Next. 4 mistakes 49ers can't afford to make in 2021 NFL Draft. dark