The 49ers used the 2022 NFL Draft to completely flip the script on some perceived positional shortcomings this offseason, creating some notable camp battles to watch this summer.
Heading into the 2022 offseason, few would have argued the San Francisco 49ers’ biggest positional weakness was at cornerback. After all, this was a glaring eyesore for much of the previous year and especially into the playoffs, notably when the Los Angeles Rams regularly picked apart the Niners secondary in the NFC Championship game.
So, what exactly did San Francisco do during the offseason?
Restock the cornerback room.
The free-agent signing of former Kansas City Chiefs defensive back Charvarius Ward signaled the start of a serious effort by general manager John Lynch to upgrade this weakness, and then the 2022 NFL Draft was used as a tool to restock other shortcomings and losses, too.
Every offseason sees its share of good position battles, as that’s the nature of competition, and this year will be no different.
But which position battles stand out as the most intriguing and crucial heading towards training camp?
Here are five you’ll want to monitor.
49ers position battle No. 5: Cornerback
Players in the mix: Tariq Castro-Fields*, Darqueze Dennard, Ka’dar Hollman, Dontae Johnson, Qwuantrezz Knight*, Deommodore Lenoir, Emmanuel Moseley, Ambry Thomas, Jason Verrett, Charvarius Ward, Samuel Womack*
* denotes rookie
Ward is automatically going to assume a starting job on the boundary given the nature of his three-year, $40.5 million contract, while the 49ers elected to take a shot on oft-injured veteran Jason Verrett once more after he tore his ACL in Week 1 last season.
If Verrett can stay healthy, it’ll be a massive boost, and it’s a low-risk option at this point anyway.
That leaves a couple of notable position battles up for grabs, though, starting at nickel cornerback where the Niners watched their longtime starter, K’Waun Williams, depart in free agency. Verrett’s presence could mean Emmanuel Moseley moves into a slot-duty role, or San Francisco can hope its fifth-round NFL Draft choice, Samuel Womack, winds up emerging as a possibility.
Assuming the 49ers keep six cornerbacks on the 53-man roster, four spots are already accounted for.
Ambry Thomas, who struggled early his rookie season a year ago, is surely in the mix as a key depth piece, too, but the new faces could ultimately push fellow second-year pro Deommodore Lenoir off the depth chart.
Especially considering how much the Niners love themselves some Dontae Johnson.