In the recent NFL draft, the 49ers selected eight players. The team didn’t draft a cornerback until Round 6, with its final choice. Before drafting someone to help cover opposing receivers, the 49ers selections included a punter, an offensive tackle and two wide receivers.
Despite a need for depth and talent in the secondary, the Niners essentially stood pat with the players they have until finally taking Tim Harris, a Virginia cornerback, in the sixth round.
But according to head coach Kyle Shanahan, the secondary wasn’t a major concern during the draft because the team believes it will improve with a better pass rush, an addition in free agency and a return to form by several players who were injured or suffered slumps in 2018.
The 49ers have a healthier Richard Sherman at one corner and ex-Charger Jason Verrett (signed as a free agent) and Ahkello Witherspoon (who slumped early in 2018 after a strong first year) at the other. Tarvarius Moore, K’Waun Williams and Jimmie Ward are among others who could be in the mix.
Shanahan told Nick Wagoner of ESPN.com recently that there just wasn’t a cornerback in the draft at the times the team drafted that jumped out as a major upgrade.
"You try to improve your team wherever you can," said Shanahan. "You look at our secondary now and everything, and it’s not the easiest thing in the world to go draft a guy who can just come in and beat out Richard Sherman, Jason Verrett, Ahkello, Tarvarius Moore. Those aren’t easy things."
Plus, by adding pass-rush specialist Dee Ford in free agency and defensive end Nick Bosa with the No. 2 pick in the draft, the 49ers’ pressue on opposing quarterbacks should be at a much higher level, taking the pressure of the secondary.
That’s the 49ers’ theory, at least. Whether it was correct will be determined by the play of these cornerbacks in 2019.