The San Francisco 49ers should bolster their unproven cornerback group by choosing one of these five prospects in the 2022 NFL Draft.
With just a few days left until the 2022 NFL Draft, the San Francisco 49ers need to be wrapping up their scouting process and finalizing their draft-day big board. General manager John Lynch probably has a good indication of who the team would like to select with the 61st overall selection, which will be their first pick in the draft.
The last time we saw the Niners on the field, quarterback Matthew Stafford was picking and choosing which receiver he would target as the Los Angeles Rams dissected San Francisco’s secondary on their way to the Super Bowl. When a play needed to be made, Rams wide receivers Cooper Kupp and Odell Beckham Jr. were too much to handle for the ineptness of the defensive backfield.
It has been frustrating to watch, as the 49ers struggle to defend the pass, seemingly year in and year out, unless the defensive line applies maximum pressure within two to three seconds after the ball has been snapped.
San Francisco doesn’t have many glaring weaknesses on the roster, but even with the addition of free-agent signing Charvarius Ward, the cornerback position still needs upgrading.
Luckily for the Niners, this is a deep cornerback draft, with four or five players projected to be selected in the first round.
Before the Deebo Samuel drama ensued, the 49ers had no shot to draft one of the top corners in the draft. Now, it might be a reality if a team decided to trade an early first-rounder for Samuel.
Sauce Gardner, the consensus top cornerback, would likely be out of reach in any scenario for the Niners, but Derek Stingley Jr. might be a player the team would target if a trade put them in range.
Hypothetical trades aside, let’s look at five cornerbacks the 49ers will have a legitimate shot at taking with the picks they currently have.
49ers 2022 NFL Draft target No. 1: Cornerback Coby Bryant, Cincinnati
Coby Bryant was born to lace up his cleats on Sunday with his confidence and attitude showing up in his play. At 6-feet-1 and 193 pounds, Bryant has the size to body receivers at the line of scrimmage but is fluid enough to jump passing routes because of his defensive IQ.
The 2021 Thorpe award winner is solid in run containment and doesn’t mind sticking his helmet into running backs trying to size him up.
What knocks Bryant down to a projected third-round pick is his lack of elite top-end speed. Bryant ran a 4.54 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine, which is fast enough against the majority of receivers, but he may struggle against the top speed receivers in the league if left alone without safety help over the top.
Bryant played on a very good defense at Cincinnati and knows how to make his presence felt in the locker room and in the huddle.
If the 49ers are looking to draft Bryant, they might need to move up to the top half of the third round if he is still available. The cornerbacks will be flying off the board once the middle of the second round hits.
If drafted by the Niners, Bryant would definitely be expected to push Emmanuel Moseley for a starting position in a year or two. The zone-coverage scheme San Francisco relies on meshes well with Bryant’s attributes and would allow him to read and react more freely in this system.