49ers Blog and Q&A

News, notes and reader questions about the San Francisco 49ers

March 17, 2010
Has Haden run away from the 49ers?

Cornerback Joe Haden reportedly improved - dramatically - his pedestrian combine numbers at Florida's pro day today. Haden ran his 40 in 4.57 in Indianapolis but evidently ran in the low 4.4s in Gainesville. What does this mean? You could argue that if Haden's stock dropped as a result of his first 40 time, it should rise again after the second. Still, there are questions swirling as to whether Haden - speedy or not - is a good enough cover cornerback to warrant a top 10 pick. If the answer is no, then he likely will fall right into the 49ers' wheelhouse in the middle of the first round.

As I've written before, cornerback may not be the team's neediest position at the moment, but they certainly could use one. The 49ers have not selected a cornerback in the first round since taking Mike Rumph in 2002. The highest the Nolan-McCloughan-Singletary regime has taken a cornerback is the fifth round (Tarell Brown, 2007. Reggie Smith was a third rounder in 2008, but he now plays safety).

The 49ers have been consistent in saying that Nate Clements will be back this season and that he'll play cornerback. Clements is due to make $6 million in base salary and the 49ers aren't going to ask him to renegotiate. But that $6 million only goes up from here. In 2011, his base goes to $7.25 million, to $9 million in 2012 and $10.7 million and $15.5 million the following two years. Remember, Clements was removed from the starting lineup when the 49ers played one of the league's best passing teams, the Colts, last year.

Haden, meanwhile, seems to be a lot like Clements, and I can't make up my mind whether that's a good or a bad thing. My sense, however, is that if he's still on the board in the mid first round the 49ers will have a hard time passing him up. Another player, Boise State's Kyle Wilson, also is intriguing because he has the return skills the 49ers desperately need. Theoretically, Wilson could handle returns as a rookie while easing into the defense as a cornerback. In his second year, he would take over for Clements. Still, Wilson isn't perfect, either. According to NFL Draft Scout's Rob Rang, he was a half-hearted tackler at Boise State, and tackling is something that is paramount to the 49ers when it comes to their corners. The draft speculation goes on ...

Meanwhile, inside linebacker Brandon Spikes reportedly ran his 40 in more than 5 seconds. Ouch. I used to think Spikes would be a nice pick up for the 49ers in the second round. Now I'm thinking they could wait until the fourth or fifth rounds ...

Guard Chester Pitts will visit the 49ers Thursday and Friday. That is, if the Detroit Lions don't make him an offer he can't refuse. Pitts visits the Lions today and tomorrow.

-- Matt Barrows

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Matt was born in Blacksburg, Va., and attended the University of Virginia. He graduated in 1995, went to Northwestern for a journalism degree a year later, and got his first job at a South Carolina daily in 1997. He joined The Bee as a Metro reporter in 1999 and started covering the 49ers in 2003. His favorite player of all time is Darrell Green.

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