5 draft picks 49ers can select to replace Jimmie Ward
By Peter Panacy
49ers safety target No. 4: Ronnie Hickman, Ohio State
Might as well stick within the Big Ten, right?
Ohio State’s Ronnie Hickman might not be quite as aggressive as Ji’Ayir Brown, and the former might actually lack some of the playmaking IQ to be a true single-high safety on the back end anyway.
That said, the 6-foot and 203-pound Hickman should be viewed as a much safer prospect who is also quite versatile and can line up over the slot, down toward the box or much deeper in a Cover 2 format where he’s not responsible for the entire back end.
If there’s a knock against Hickman, it’s that he doesn’t have the best anticipation skills and tends to react more when in coverage.
As such, his early use might be as a big-nickel safety, which would still work for the Niners after losing defensive back Tarvarius Moore in free agency to the Green Bay Packers.
Should Hickman improve that anticipation, he’d have the ability to emerge as a starting-caliber option because the physical traits are there.