Niners' Cornerback Competition Could Be Fierce

Players drafted in 2014, who had to sit out a season, should be in mix to help pick up slack from departures of Culliver and Cox in free agency

As the 49ers get ready for the NFL draft that begins April 30, cornerback is considered a position of prime need.

Perrish Cox and Chris Culliver, who both were starting at the end of the 2014 season, left in free agency. Their departure has left a giant question mark dangling over the San Francisco secondary.

Yet while the 49ers suddenly are much thinner at cornerback, they may be in much better shape than some people believe.

Tramaine Brock, who missed much of last season with a foot injury – but started the season as the team’s top corner – should be back to anchor one spot. And his presence alone should be a plus, says safety Antoine Bethea.

“T-Brock is healthy and once we come together, get this camaraderie together out her working, pushing each other, get these OTAs, minicamps and all that, I think we’ll be fine,” Bethea told reporters recently at the start of the 49ers’ voluntary offseason workout program at the team facility in Santa Clara.

The leader to start on the other side is former Charger Shareece Wright. Right behind them are veterans Chris Cook and Marcus Cromartie.

Plus, as Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee noted in a story this week, the 49ers have several young players waiting for their chances in what could be a very competitive training camp.

Barrows ran down the team’s stockpile of “bonus players” on the roster – players who will be like rookies this season because they were drafted last season while injured (and spent the year learning and rehabbing) or were injured in training camp and missed their first pro seasons.

As Barrows points out, the 49ers drafted three cornerbacks last season: Dontae Johnson in the fourth round, Keith Reaser in the fifth round and Kenneth Acker in the sixth round.

Johnson was impressive, playing in all 16 seasons and starting three. He could challenge Wright for a starting job.

Acker, meanwhile, appeared to be on his way to making the opening-game roster with a solid preseason performance before injuring his foot and being placed on injured reserve.

Reaser tore ligaments in his left knee in college, then had a second surgery just before the draft and missed all of last season. But Barrows reports he’s healthy again, is taking part in the offseason program and is in the mix at both cornerback and kick/punt returner.

Barrows wrote that GM Trent Baalke’s practice of drafting these “bonus” type players provides “a buffer against free agency losses.”

Now that comes in to play after the departures of Culliver and Perrish Cox. Acker and Reaser – after sitting on the sidelines during the 2014 season – will get their opportunities.

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