49ers roster 2023: Darrell Luter Jr. could be a Year 1 starter

Darrell Luter Jr. was one of those less-discussed risers who managed to find his way to the 49ers on Day 3 of the NFL Draft.
San Francisco 49ers cornerback Darrell Luter Jr.
San Francisco 49ers cornerback Darrell Luter Jr. / Michael Zagaris/GettyImages

The 49ers got a small-school sleeper in Darrell Luter Jr. via the 2023 NFL Draft, and he could potentially start at cornerback right away.

The first time Niner Noise wrote about former South Alabama cornerback Darrell Luter Jr. was right after the 2023 Senior Bowl in which he impressed scouts and teams (and us, too) with some solid one-on-one drills and actual gameday play.

Despite the small-school pedigree, Luter was still one of those day-three prospects who'd be worth taking a chance on, and that's precisely what the San Francisco 49ers did in Round 5, grabbing him at No. 155 overall.

Granted, just because a less-known player impressed at the Senior Bowl doesn't automatically translate into him being the Niners' next day-three draft gem.

But, if things go well enough, Luter could feasibly be starting for San Francisco at cornerback. And it might come as soon as his rookie year.





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Some of the reports on Luter from rookie minicamp and organized team activities were positive, too, saying he might have a tendency to get beat by better receivers but nevertheless has what it takes to recover quickly.

That'll bode well if Luter expects to be a first-year starter.

Why did the 49ers draft Darrell Luter?

San Francisco was a bit short on cornerbacks heading into 2023, particularly boundary ones after losing Emmanuel Moseley to the Detroit Lions in free agency.

The 49ers do, at least potentially, have someone they can rely upon for the long term opposite the No. 1 boundary corner, Charvarius Ward, in third-year pro Deommodore Lenoir, who filled in for Mosely for much of 2023 after the latter suffered a torn ACL in Week 5.

That said, Lenoir might only be a so-so option, and the 6-foot 190-pound Luter has the kind of upside that could potentially make him a day-three draft gem.

Worst case, the Niners are also lacking for quality depth options at the position, too.

What is Darrell Luter's contract with the 49ers?

All drafted rookies wind up receiving four-year deals with their respective teams, and that's what Luter got after being drafted by San Francisco in Round 5.

Of course, fifth-round picks make significantly less than players selected on days one and two of the draft, and Luter's own draft position means that his four-year, $4.153 million contract won't have too many nuances in comparison to others drafted in that same range.

$313,512 of that is fully guaranteed, while Luter could make up to $828,378 if he's named to the 49ers' 53-man roster this season and meets whatever other terms are worked into his contract.

Will Darrell Luter make the 49ers' 53-man roster? If so, will he start?

Luter doesn't have a ton of guaranteed money on his deal, and $313K is substantial enough to suggest he'll at least survive roster cuts his rookie season.

However, there is one thing working against Luter right now with training camp just days away.

Already, he was placed on the physically unable-to-perform (PUP) list with an undisclosed injury. He could potentially stay there until 53-man rosters are announced, and the Niners would then have a decision to make if his injury is still a problem.

Would they use a roster spot on him before placing him on a regular-season injury list? Or would they waive him with the risk of exposing him to waivers, hoping to sign him back to that reserve/injured list?

Best case? Luter returns healthy.

If so, the No. 2 cornerback spot alongside Ward is certainly up for grabs, particularly if Lenoir struggles.

Even if Lenoir holds down the spot for now, Luter will likely be hot on his trail to take the starting job.

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