San Francisco 49ers

49ers could use draft to shore up corners

Florida State defensive back Jalen Ramsey, left, stops Notre Dame wide receiver C.J. Prosise short of the goal at the end of an NCAA college football game in Tallahassee, Fla., Saturday, Oct. 18, 2014. Florida State won 31-27.
Florida State defensive back Jalen Ramsey, left, stops Notre Dame wide receiver C.J. Prosise short of the goal at the end of an NCAA college football game in Tallahassee, Fla., Saturday, Oct. 18, 2014. Florida State won 31-27. AP

The scouting combine begins this week, and the 49ers will be busy. They are projected to have a league-high 12 picks and could use help at just about every position. We’ll look at every spot on the team as well as which college prospects might fit with the 49ers.

Cornerbacks

Need level: low to moderate

Under contract for 2016: Kenneth Acker, Tramaine Brock, Marcus Cromartie, Chris Davis, Dontae Johnson, Keith Reaser

THE SITUATION

The 49ers have an abundance of young cornerbacks, but they never could seem to settle on one as the starter opposite Brock. Acker began the season in that role, but by year’s end he was on the bench and Johnson was in the starting lineup with Cromartie getting long looks, too. The 49ers began the season with high hopes for Keith Reaser, but he played only 79 defensive snaps last season.

The 49ers certainly have room to draft a cornerback if the opportunity presents itself. General manager Trent Baalke mostly has been content in looking for diamonds in the rough late in the draft. The earliest he’s taken a cornerback is the third round, where he found Chris Culliver in 2011. Free agency could be another spot for a potential starter. The 49ers, for instance, were interested in Sean Smith the last time he was a free agent in 2013 but eventually backed off.

Of all the positions on the team, safety (and punter) might be the least concern. The 49ers took a safety in the first round in 2013 (Eric Reid) and 2014 (Jimmie Ward) and went back to the position last year in the second round (Jaquiski Tartt). Plus, they like L.J. McCray as a developmental player and have veteran Antoine Bethea under contract.

THE 2016 CLASS

Jalen Ramsey, Florida State: He’s the type of big-bodied (6-foot-1, 202 pounds) press cornerback Baalke prefers. Ramsey also has experience playing safety. Along with Brock, he would give the 49ers two aggressive cornerbacks and allow their secondary to at least rival those in Seattle and Arizona. But most observers see Ramsey being taken before the 49ers pick at No. 7.

Vernon Hargreaves, Florida: The fluid cornerback had 10 interceptions the last three years. His size (5-11, 190) is not ideal and his last game, vs. Michigan in the Citrus Bowl, was a stinker.

Eli Apple, Ohio State: He has the size (6-1, 200) to handle bigger NFL receivers. Ramsey and Hargreaves are considered the top two corners in the draft, but there is a question which will go next. Apple could be available in the second round.

Kendall Fuller, Virginia Tech: He sat out 2015 with injuries, which could drop him a round lower than he would have gone (and which would make him attractive to bargain-hunting Baalke). Fuller has three brothers who play or played in the NFL: Vincent, Corey and Kyle, a former first-round pick by the Bears.

Maurice Canady, Virginia: He’s another big cornerback (6-1, 191) who will be available in the middle rounds. Canady was solid at the Senior Bowl.

Matt Barrows: @mattbarrows, read more about the team at sacbee.com/sf49ers.

NFL Scouting Combine

  • When: Tuesday through Monday
  • Where: Indianapolis
  • Who: NFL executives and coaches, top college players eligible for draft
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