49ers Safeties (5)
FS Jimmie Ward
SS Talanoa Hufanga
S George Odum
FS/SS Tarvarius Moore
S Leon O’Neal, Jr
If five safeties feel like a lot to carry, it’s probably because it is.
Most of that is due to the unknown of who will start alongside free safety Jimmie Ward, with Jaquiski Tartt currently still a free agent who doesn’t appear set to return to San Francisco.
Ideally, 2021 fifth-round draft pick Talanoa Hufanga improves upon a solid-but-inconsistent rookie season and snags the job away from the rest of the candidates. But his weakness, downfield coverage, isn’t something you want from an every-down strong safety in the modern NFL.
Tarvarius Moore seemed ready to step into the role prior to last season but he tore his Achilles and spent the entire 2021 campaign on the PUP list, which means his contract essentially got pushed into 2022 even though he was scheduled to be a free agent this offseason.
If Moore can make a full recovery and take the starting role, then he’s the ideal type of guy to have next to the savvy veteran, Ward. Moore has shown great speed and good recovery skills and is very likely the best overall athlete in the group.
Free-agent signing George Odum is another option, and although he has played some in the defensive backfield, he was also a first-team All-Pro player in 2020… as a special teamer. The plan would appear to be that Odum is here primarily to, along with Oren Burks, to improve that unit.
The wild card is yet another UDFA, former Texas A&M standout Leon O’Neal, who already has a chip on his shoulder after having not heard his name called during draft weekend:
He’s more of a downhill thumper than someone like Moore, but there’s little doubt he’ll step in and do what is asked of him. This doesn’t mean O’Neal will be starting by Week 1, but he’ll be a terror on special teams who can learn to be a contributor on defense as time goes by.