49ers NFL Draft preview: Team with many needs could target top defenders
This item is part of a series on the positions the 49ers will look to fill in the upcoming draft and the players that are the best fits at those spots. Today's position:
Description: Seattle's Kam Chancellor is the prototypical player at this position when it comes to the type of defense San Francisco will run this season. Most think of him as an extra linebacker, and at 6-3, 232 with a punishing tackling style Chancellor is indeed an enforcer along the line of scrimmage. That's the advantage of playing a single-high safety scheme -- the defense can stuff a maximum number of players in the box to combat the run. Chancellor, however, also is much better in coverage than perceived, and he's been a devastating opponent for 49ers tight ends -- from Vernon Davis to Vance McDonald -- in recent years. The Seahawks have struggled at strong safety when Chancellor has been injured, which is to say the position can’t be filled by any big-bodied safety. Like the free-safety spot that will be discussed later, it requires someone special.
Who's there now: Defensive coordinator Robert Saleh said that former first-round pick Eric Reid will be used as an in-the-box safety. Reid certainly has the brains for the position, and at times in 2016 he played closer to the line of scrimmage than he had in previous seasons. Reid, however, only is only signed through this season. Another former high draft pick, Jaquiski Tartt, also is a possibility at this spot. The 49ers are hoping that a simpler, more aggressive defense will suit Tartt's strengths more than previous incarnations.
Need level: 5.9
Perfect fit: LSU's Jamal Adams has most of the qualities needed at the position: He's big, athletic and an eager tackler. He's also been the leader of LSU's defense, and the 49ers' brass has stressed that, more than anything else, it’s looking to reset the culture inside the team's locker room. At 6-0, Adams is not the ideal height for a position that, at least in Seattle, has been asked to cover tight ends. It also can be argued that if the 49ers are going to use the No. 2 pick on a safety, it should be the free-safety spot. Other fits: Jabrill Peppers, Michigan; Obi Melifonwu, Connecticut; Josh Jones, N.C. State