It’s possible the 49ers relegate Emmanuel Moseley to a backup role in 2022, but even if that happens, he’ll be massively important on the depth chart.
San Francisco 49ers cornerback Emmanuel Moseley is proof that a little patience can go a long way.
The former undrafted free agent out of the University of Tennessee who joined the Niners in 2018 has gone from a fringe player buried deep on the roster to a reliable starter in a few years’ time, even earning a start in Super Bowl LIV against the Kansas City Chiefs.
And while some may have questioned his shortish 5-foot-11 and 190-pound frame, Moseley’s capabilities on the field have certainly overcome whatever concerns he had before going pro.
While all this doesn’t paint him as an elite-level starter, he’s nevertheless vital, having shown as much during his San Francisco tenure already.
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Despite dealing with injuries for much of 2021, Moseley was still a bright spot in an otherwise questionable 49ers cornerback room.
However, amid all the changes the team undertook this offseason, there’s a chance Moseley’s role might change a lot, too.
Let’s take a look at what’s on tap for him heading into 2022.
Why Emmanuel Moseley has a career-best year with 49ers in 2022
Consistency and short memories are vital for cornerbacks, and the best ones out there still give up huge plays and make mistakes from time to time. Perhaps just less frequently than others.
Moseley, in particular, tended to play well above average when the Niners’ pass rush was functioning at a high level, equivalent to most defensive backs anyway. Check out his passer rating-allowed stats from 2019 and 2021 in contrast to the injury-plagued 2020 campaign:
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With San Francisco reinvesting in the defensive line this offseason, namely by grabbing former USD EDGE Drake Jackson in Round 2 of this year’s NFL Draft, Moseley should again be aided by players like Jackson, Nick Bosa and Arik Armstead along the 49ers’ defensive line.
If Moseley then stays healthy for a full season and is now much further along in his development at 26 years old, it’s certainly plausible for him to put forth an excellent 2022 campaign.
Why Emmanuel Moseley gets lost in the 49ers’ backwater
There are a few elements challenging Moseley’s hopes for having a top-notch year.
First, his role has yet to be determined. The Niners lost long-time starting nickel cornerback K’Waun Williams to free agency, and while they hope to have replaced him by adding rookie corner Samuel Womack via the draft, it might actually be Moseley who is tasked with filling in over the slot.
Moseley has done this before, yes. But as Pro Football Focus pointed out, he played only five snaps at nickel in 2021 and only 53 the year prior.
It’s not his natural position.
Plus, despite his relatively consistent production over the years, Moseley still hinges between being a modest starter and a high-quality backup, someone teams like having but wouldn’t mind upgrading either.
Projecting Emmanuel Moseley’s role with 49ers this season
Moseley is in a contract year and is poised to make up to $6.56 million in 2022, according to Over the Cap, and his $1.73 million in dead money, if cut, is a big enough financial reason why he’ll be on the roster.
A contract year should provide plenty of motivation, too.
Going back to all those offseason changes within San Francisco’s secondary, though, it’s not yet totally clear whether Moseley will emerge as a starter. The 49ers’ big-ticket free agent, Charvarius Ward, will be a starter on the boundary. And the Niners electing to re-sign oft-injured veteran Jason Verrett could push Moseley down the depth chart, too.
Verrett’s case is interesting, as he’s returning from a torn ACL suffered early last season. If he’s fully healthy, there’s a good chance Verrett starts, which would point to Moseley either starting at nickel or being called upon as an immediate go-to reserve.
However, don’t let that designation fool you into thinking it’s unimportant. Moseley is about as capable of a reserve defensive back as there could be, and even if Verrett winds up starting, having someone like Moseley ready to go is going to be vital.