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49ers 2014 Draft Forecast: Cornerback

Kyle Fuller
Kyle FullerPhoto by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

The biggest question mark heading into the 2014 season is who the starting cornerbacks are. Carlos Rogers and Tarell Brown both departed in free agency to the Oakland Raiders, ending an era with Donte Whitner and Dashon Goldson in the secondary.

Tramaine Brock's emergence during the season made others expendable as he was signed to a four-year contract extension in 2013 which has him under contract through 2017. While Brock is the No.1 cornerback, it's uncertain as to who will start on the opposite side.

Chris Culliver, who was the nickel CB in 2011 and 2012, will be returning from his torn ACL injury this fall. He has the most experience in Vic Fangio's defense of any remaining cornerback on the depth chart.

Perrish Cox and Darryl Morris were primarily special teamers, but the former did a decent job as the team's dime defensive back. Others who also return from last year include Eric Wright and Dax Swanson. The 49ers also made a low-risk signing in former Vikings CB Chris Cook, who was once a high second-round draft pick in 2010.

With the exception of Brock, there are no proven starters among the cornerbacks for the 49ers. Several players have had experience in nickel and dime defense, but not playing on every down. This position is the 49ers biggest need entering the 2014 NFL Draft.

Kyle Fuller (Virginia Tech) 6-0, 190 pounds: Fuller has all the tools to be a starting cornerback in the NFL with his size and awareness. He can also contribute on special teams as well as play as a nickel CB. Fuller could be drafted as early as the mid-first round, requiring a trade up from the 49ers if they want him.

Bradley Roby (Ohio State) 5-11, 194 pounds: Roby is a CB with intriguing upside due to his speed and tackling abilities. He has the versatility to play as a nickel CB as well as contributing on special teams as a gunner, but has character concerns. Roby is projected as a first-round draft pick and was one of two CBs brought in Santa Clara for a pre-draft visit.

Justin Gilbert (Oklahoma State) 6-0, 202 pounds: Gilbert is considered to be the top CB in this draft class due to his upside and athletic abilities. He can also contribute as a returner for any team that takes him. It is doubtful for the 49ers to trade up as he should be taken in the top 15.

Darqueze Dennard (Michigan State) 5-11, 199 pounds: Dennard is a cornerback who is built for press coverage and can immediately be plugged in as a No.2 CB. There are durability concerns, but when healthy, he can be one of the best cover CBs in this class. Dennard should be a first-round draft pick and could require a trade up for the 49ers.

Jason Verrett (TCU) 5-9, 189 pounds: Verrett would already be locked as a nickel CB for any team and could become a No.2 cornerback as his ceiling. While he is undersized, Verrett has impressive coverage skills and can be explosive with his athleticism and pesky defending. Verrett is projected as a late first rounder or early second round draft pick.

Stanley Jean-Baptiste (Nebraska) 6-3, 218 pounds: Jean-Baptiste would be a project CB who would need coaching in order to develop his game. He has the size of a large, physical CB who can be explosive in coverage. Jean-Baptiste is projected as a second or third-round draft pick.

Pierre Desir (Lindenwood) 6-1, 198 pounds: Desir would be another physical CB who has the size if the 49ers want a project to take after the first round. He excels at zone coverage and uses his wingspan to his advantage when going for a jump ball. Even though he played at the Division II level of football, he had an impressive Senior Bowl and has the ball skills to take it to the next level. Desir is projected as a third or fourth-round draft pick.

Dontae Johnson (NC State) 6-2, 200 pounds: Johnson has the size to be a physical CB, but he doesn't play up to it, according to scouts. He has good awareness, but would need coaching to refine his game to the NFL level. Johnson is projected as a mid-round draft pick.

Aaron Colvin (Oklahoma) 5-11, 177 pounds: Colvin would be a long-term CB to develop as he recovers from a torn ACL which he suffered at the Senior Bowl. He's a good tackler with strong instincts who would do well for zone defense. With the injury, Colvin is projected as a late-round draft pick. He was the second CB the 49ers brought in for a visit in Santa Clara.

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1. First round: Own pick, No. 30 overall
2. Second round: Kansas City Chiefs pick acquired for Alex Smith, No. 56 overall
3. Second round: Own pick, No. 61 overall
4. Third round: Titans pick acquired for a second round pick in a 2013 draft day trade, No. 77 overall
5. Third round: Own pick, No. 94 overall
6. Third round: Compensatory, No. 100 overall
7. Fourth round: Own pick, No. 129 overall
8. Fifth round: Own pick, No. 170 overall
9. Seventh round: Saints pick acquired for Parys Haralson, No. 242 overall
10. Seventh round: Panthers pick acquired for Colin Jones in 2012, No. 243 overall
11. Seventh round: Own pick, No. 245 overall

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49ers Draft Forecast Series: Running Back, Tight End, Defensive Line, Quarterback, Safety, Offensive Line, Inside Linebacker, Outside Linebacker, Special Teams, Wide Receiver.