Niners May Have Eyes on Small-School Cornerback

Pierre Desir of little Lindenwood University fits the bigger mold of today's longer NFL cornerbacks, and could be a second- or third-day selection

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    NEWSLETTERS

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    Former Lindenwood cornerback Pierre Desir intercepts a pass in the Senior Bowl game in January. (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)

    Lindenwood University is a small liberal-arts college in St. Charles, Mo.

    The Lions play NCAA Div. II football, so players from Lindenwood don’t get too much publicity. But lately, Lindenwood cornerback Pierre Desir has been climbing the draft boards. And he’s reportedly caught the eye of 49ers general manager Trent Baalke.

    When the 49ers get into the second, third or fourth rounds of the draft later this week, it’s possible Baalke will take Desir, who’s considered not only a good player on the field, but a mature, reliable person off the field as well, being married with two daughters.

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    Matt Barrows, who covers the 49ers for the Sacramento Bee, recently listed Desir as among his “draft crushes” for the 49ers after Round 1, writing:

    “He’s tall, long-limbed and physical – just the type of cornerback Baalke has been seeking in recent years. He’s also a family man, someone unlikely to bring off-the-field trouble to a position group that has seen three players – Chris Culliver, Perrish Cox and Eric Wright – arrested in recent years.

    “Desir’s biggest knock is that he played against inferior quarterbacks and receivers. But he held up well in the Senior Bowl and, with Ed Donatell’s tutelage, his upside seems very big.”

    Desir, in fact, is not only tall (6-foot-1) and strong (198 pounds), but has long, 33-inch arms – a trait Baalke loves. Plus, his 11-foot-, 1-inch broad jump at the NFL Combine was the second best among all corners. The scouting report on Desir by NFL.com says “He’s a natural interceptor – attacks the ball in the air like a receiver and tracks it very well. Plays big in critical situations.”

    His speed is considered just average, however, and his run-support skills have been questioned.

    Yet many NFL scouts believe Desir is a cornerback in the mold of the bigger, stronger corners in the league these days, and could do very well in the right NFL system.

    “We saw the future of football, how all defensive backs in this league are eventually going to look,” one scout told ESPN.com this spring, speaking of the Seahawks’ success in the Super Bowl. “And they all look like Pierre Desir.”

    ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper, Jr., in fact, believes the Niners might take Desir as soon as the second round, with the 56th overall choice.

    Desir won the Cliff Harris award given to the nation’s best small-college defensive back in 2013, after making four interceptions, eight pass deflections and 33 tackles for Lindenwood this past season.

    Josh Norris, a writer for Roto World, noted that Desir – though from a small college – has what the NFL is looking for in cornerbacks right now.

    “Pierre Desir has the longest arms of any Shrine Game CB,” he tweeted in January. “NFL teams will be focusing on long corners that can match length at the catch point.”

    Desir played well in the Shrine Game and Senior Bowl, where he intercepted a pass.

    If the 49ers believe so strongly in Desir’s potential, that might allow them to go for a wide receiver with their first-round pick Thursday and address their cornerback need on Day 2 with Desir.