The San Francisco 49ers reinforced their defensive front seven in the opening days of free agency, which could point to the secondary being targeted a lot in the 2019 NFL Draft.
If NFL free agency is any indicator, the San Francisco 49ers will likely focus a good deal of their efforts on the secondary in the 2019 NFL Draft this April.
The Niners made three substantial defensive moves to address their defense when the league new year started on March 13. First, the team inked linebacker Kwon Alexander to a four-year deal. Then general manager John Lynch traded for Kansas City Chiefs EDGE Dee Ford and subsequently extended him. San Francisco then signed oft-injured-but-talented cornerback Jason Verrett to a one-year deal.
Alexander and Ford are likely going to be critical parts of the 49ers defense for some time. Verrett’s one-year deal is more of a “prove it” one, suggesting the Niners are nowhere finished addressing their secondary.
And it’s likely they’ll use the draft to do so.
It’s not like the Niners should feel pretty good about their crop of defensive backs. Last year, after all, Pro Football Focus ranked San Francisco’s secondary dead last in the NFL in 2018. Yes, the team could bank on bounce-back years from cornerbacks Ahkello Witherspoon and Tarvarius Moore, while also hoping safety Adrian Colbert returns more to his 2017 form than what was seen a season ago.
But there’s an equal chance Witherspoon, Moore and Colbert aren’t going to be the risers in the Niners secondary this year, too.
Like Verrett, defensive back Jimmie Ward is also back on only a one-year deal. Veteran cornerback Richard Sherman will turn 31 years old later this month, so the 49ers also have to start thinking about his long-term replacement sooner than later.
The point of all this is the 49ers focused largely on addressing shortcomings in their front seven, including the pass rush. Adding Verrett and re-signing Ward are only stopgap options for the defensive backfield.
As such, it’s highly likely Lynch will use the draft to find some reinforcements.
San Francisco boasts six picks in April’s draft, including the No. 2 overall selection. While Lynch probably won’t grab a defensive back at that spot, other picks — including pick No. 36 overall — may wind up being used to find a few more prospect defensive backs.
One can envision a scenario in which the Niners grab a free safety in Round 2 and possibly another corner in Round 3. Switch those two around, if you’d like. But that would possibly be the plan.
Doing so would help ensure the 49ers have some up-and-coming players to slot into starting roles, especially if some of the short-term fixes don’t pan out to desired expectations.