5 defensive NFL Draft prospects 49ers must have atop big board

Houston Cougars cornerback Marcus Jones (8) Mandatory Credit: Katie Stratman-USA TODAY Sports
Houston Cougars cornerback Marcus Jones (8) Mandatory Credit: Katie Stratman-USA TODAY Sports /
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The 49ers could afford to reinforce their defense early in the 2022 NFL Draft, and these five prospects should be high on their big board.

Judging solely on how the San Francisco 49ers performed in the playoffs last season and why they were ultimately eliminated, one might assume addressing the offense would be the most important thing for general manager John Lynch in the 2022 NFL Draft.

That’s why Niner Noise broke down five offensive prospects the team has to have high up on its big board for April’s draft.

However, there are far more blue-chip players on the offensive side of the ball than on the defense, and a good number of defensive starters ended up leaving the team via free agency this offseason.

So, perhaps, Lynch and Co. may want to focus on that side of the ball instead.

Not picking until No. 61 overall, San Francisco will have to cross off the top 15 (or so) prospects from its wish list, although this year’s draft could see plenty of fluidity from the second half of Round 1 all the way through Round 2, meaning some first-round caliber prospects could eventually be had.

Indeed, some of those draftees should find their way onto the 49ers’ top-five defensive big board.

Here are five the 49ers should closely target and rank high.

Marcus Jones. Scouting Report. Pick Analysis. Cornerback. Houston. 5. player. 881

No. 5 player on 49ers defensive NFL Draft big board: CB Marcus Jones, Houston

While 2021 revealed a slight dip in productivity, now-Denver Broncos nickel cornerback K’Waun Williams will still be sorely missed from the Niners defense.

In the wake of San Francisco adding cornerback Charvarius Ward to handle boundary duties, it’s feasible the team moves No. 2 corner Emmanuel Moseley inside on sub packages to replace Williams.

However, adding another promising nickel isn’t out of the question.

Houston cornerback Marcus Jones could be an ideal fit here. And while his 5-foot-8, 185-pound frame pretty much limits him to slot coverage, he does play with a very Williams-like tenacity and doesn’t let his lack of size get in the way.

Jones, who impressed with five interceptions and 13 pass breakups last year, could potentially be a plug-and-play option at nickel, affording the 49ers the chance to get both younger and cheaper at the position.

Plus, there’s an awfully good chance Jones will be available at the end of Round 2.