The 49ers have a need at wide receiver, and many NFL writers and analysts believe they’ll use their No. 1 pick on a fast, field-stretching pass catcher or a pass rusher.
But the Niners also have much uncertainty at cornerback and now, after the NFL Combine has been completed, some believe they’ll use their top selection, the 15th overall, on a corner.
Veteran cornerbacks Chris Culliver and Perrish Cox are free agents who might go elsewhere in 2015. And Tramaine Brock, the team’s No. 1 corner entering 2014, has struggled with injuries.
This is considered a subpar crop of college cornerbacks, but there are some corners with first-round talent, including Trae Waynes of Michigan State, Jalen Collins of LSU, P.J. Williams of Florida State and Marcus Peters of Washington.
Waynes got plenty of attention at the NFL Combine last week by running a 4.31 40-yard dash, the fastest time among this year’s corners. Also opening eyes was Byron Jones of Connecticut, who set a Combine record with a 147-inch broad jump and had a 44.5-inch vertical leap.
But the corner who might best suit the 49ers is Collins of LSU.
In his most recent NFL mock draft, Daniel Jeremiah of NFL.com has the 49ers selecting Collins with the 15th pick, and at the Combine, Collins was impressive. The 6-foot-1, 203-pounder has the size NFL teams now are looking for in pass coverage, and he ran a strong 4.48 40 time. Wrote Jeremiah: “Collins doesn’t have a lot of experience, but he has a big upside because of his size/athleticsm.”
Collins started just 10 games at LSU, but had three interceptions and 25 pass breakups. NFL.com analyst Mike Mayock calls him “a long press corner” because of his size, but isn’t certain what he can do. “We’ve got a lot of questions to answer on this kid,” he said at the Combine.
Collins also has the long arms (32 1/8) that 49ers GM Trent Baalke covets.
Two other factors could be new 49ers receivers coach Adam Henry, who comes to the team from LSU where he coached the wide receivers – and went up against Collins every day in practice – and Niners safety Eric Reid, a former LSU standout. Both could vouch for Collins.
Collins has been ranked as the No. 3 cornerback in this draft, behind Michigan State’s Waynes and Washington’s Peters.
Though Mayock wants to see more of him, he says, “I want to like him” because of his potential and toughness.
“He’s not afraid at the line of scrimmage,” he said. “He’s not bailing out. He’s just sitting right there and saying, ‘Bring it.’ ”