Late-round NFL Draft picks have their work cut out for them, and 49ers corner Tariq Castro-Fields will have a long way to go if he wants to make the roster in 2022.
Years of neglecting the cornerback room, paired with the notable shortages they had last season, finally prompted the San Francisco 49ers to throw a lot of resources at the position this offseason.
While the free-agent signing of former Kansas City Chiefs corner Charvarius Ward headlined these moves by general manager John Lynch and Co., a sixth-round NFL Draft pick used on former Penn State defensive back Tariq Castro-Fields shouldn’t go unnoticed either.
Selected at No. 221 overall, immediately after the Niners’ pick of defensive tackle Kalia Davis at No. 220, Castro-Fields epitomizes why teams take fliers on raw, needing-to-develop prospects late on draft day if they have the intangibles to potentially thrive at the pro level.
In Castro-Fields’ case, taking the long-term developmental route might be his best shot at sticking around with San Francisco.
|*2017||Penn State||Big Ten||FR||CB||7||9||1||10||2.0||0.0||1||0||0.0||0||3||0||1|
|*2018||Penn State||Big Ten||SO||CB||12||21||11||32||5.0||1.0||0||0||0||7||0||0|
|*2019||Penn State||Big Ten||JR||CB||12||32||20||52||3.0||0.0||2||8||4.0||0||8||0||0|
|2020||Penn State||Big Ten||SR||CB||3||6||6||12||0.0||0.0||0||0||0||1||0||0|
|*2021||Penn State||Big Ten||SR||CB||12||26||7||33||0.0||0.0||0||0||0||6||0||0|
Provided by CFB at Sports Reference
The 49ers now have a deep cornerback room on their 90-man offseason roster, meaning Castro-Fields will have to do much more than just show promise in training camp and the preseason to hang around.
Let’s see what else awaits him in his rookie year.
Why Tariq Castro-Fields impresses 49ers in Year 1
From a physique standpoint, Castro-Fields checks off a lot of the boxes NFL teams want in boundary cornerbacks. He’s 6-foot-1, 197 pounds and ran a blazing-fast 4.38 40-yard time during his NFL Scouting Combine workouts.
Despite five years of collegiate experience, three in which he played a starting role, Castro-Fields still has a lot of rawness to his game that’ll need refinement, as pointed out by his NFL.com draft profile:
"Perimeter cornerback with appealing size and traits for press-man, but confidence and consistency were missing from his 2021 tape. Castro-Fields’ length, strength and athleticism are likely to be viewed as moldable features by defensive back coaches. However, he is missing the desired stickiness to the route and lacks spatial awareness and ball-hawking instincts from zone. His run support commitment is a bit disappointing relative to his size. Castro-Fields possesses the tools and versatility to operate as a backup in a variety of coverage schemes and is a middle-round value with upside traits."
This all paints the suggestion of Castro-Fields being a decent option if a team is willing to invest the time necessary in him.
While many a defensive back struggles early after transitioning from the collegiate ranks, there are always the outliers. And in this cornerback’s case, he doesn’t need to worry about compensating for his lack of physical prowess. That’s already established.
Why Tariq Castro-Fields isn’t so successful for 49ers in 2022
If the Niners were shorthanded at cornerback, either amid a rebuild or a complete infusion of rookie talent, Castro-Fields would likely have a better shot at earning more of those highly valuable reps in training camp.
This isn’t the case for San Francisco, though, as there are plenty of more-experienced and higher-profile corners likely slated well above him on the depth chart.
Fewer reps for Castro-Fields equals fewer chances to impress the coaching staff. And stemming from one practice report from rookie minicamp, not a lot of time to make up for on-field gaffes:
"Played lots of aggressive bump-and-run coverage and got burned multiple times. Probably isn’t good enough to play aggressive bump-and-run coverage in the NFL."
Many a rookie will take those lumps in an inaugural offseason, especially at a time when physical contact isn’t permitted yet, thereby negating any sort of press-man coverage.
Yet Castro-Fields, at least according to this report, didn’t display the recovery skills he’ll need to overcome those issues, and that’s consistent with the aforementioned scouting report.
Chances of Tariq Castro-Fields making 49ers’ 53-man roster
He might not be a complete long shot, but Castro-Fields is certainly on the weaker side of the roster bubble ahead of training camp, and it’s going to take some awfully big leaps and bounds for him to survive cuts, plus a few other beneficial developments that are out of his control.
Ward and Emmanuel Moseley are locks for the 53-man roster, while Jason Verrett and Ambry Thomas have pretty safe paths to make the cut, too.
Additionally, Castro-Fields’ fellow 49ers draft-class teammate, Samuel Womack, impressed a lot during both organized team activities and mandatory minicamp, suggesting he’s safe to make the regular-season crop.
That arguably leaves one final spot, assuming the Niners keep six cornerbacks, so Castro-Fields will have to beat out the likes of Dontae Johnson, Deommodore Lenoir, Darqueze Dennard and Ka’dar Hollman, among others, to stand a chance.
Probably too big a hurdle to cover.
What’s likely the outcome is for Castro-Fields to see some modest action late in preseason games before San Francisco considers stashing him on the practice squad as one of those developmental players for future use.