It wouldn’t be shocking at all if the 49ers looked at grabbing a safety early in the 2022 NFL Draft, and these five sure stand out for the right reasons.
The San Francisco 49ers could go one of many different directions with their top pick in the 2022 NFL Draft, which just so happens to come in at No. 61 overall way towards the back end of Round 2.
Additionally, with two third-round picks not too long thereafter, general manager John Lynch and Co. hope to stamp out the relatively few-but-still-notable needs the roster has heading towards training camp.
One of those apparent needs is at safety where the Niners don’t seem poised to bring back their longtime starter, Jaquiski Tartt, who remains a free agent. And while San Francisco boasts some possible fill-in options, namely players like George Odum, Talanoa Hufanga and Tarvarius Moore, it’s probably more feasible to consider looking at day two of the draft to find someone who can serve as a full-time replacement.
If the 49ers do go with a safety on day two of the draft, these five surely seem to fit the bill.
49ers safety prospect No. 5: Leon O’Neal Jr., Texas A&M
It’s possible the Niners wait until the end of Round 3 to make a safety pick, and one of the names to watch if they go this route is Texas A&M safety Leon O’Neal Jr.
On the fringes of being a late day-two pick or going early on day three, the 6-foot-1 and 210-pound O’Neal is coming off a 2021 campaign in which he recorded 58 total tackles with three of them coming for a loss, two interceptions and five passes broken up.
While O’Neal’s open-field coverage abilities need some work, he’s notably sound against the run and could probably fit the bill as a good in-the-box safety who can use his physicality to his advantage.
It would take some time before a team like San Francisco could rely on O’Neal to handle free safety duties, meaning its veteran starter, Jimmie Ward, wouldn’t be going anywhere anytime soon.
However, for those responsibilities close to the line of scrimmage, O’Neal checks off a lot of boxes.