When this year’s NFL draft was over, safety Lorenzo Jerome still hadn’t been picked.
As he pondered his next path, he received calls from the Seahawks, Giants, Eagles and 49ers, offering free-agent deals. After weighing his options, the former star at St. Francis decided to the sign with the Niners.
Now, Jerome seems to be fitting in nicely at free safety and could wind up making the roster as the backup to Jimmie Ward at that position.
“It’s the perfect fit for me,” Jerome told Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee, after joining the 49ers. “I like where they have me. I like the system.”
As Barrows noted, Jerome was a standout at St. Francis, a small school (in the NCAA’s FCS division) in Pennsylvania in the Northeast Conference. He was a ballhawk, coming up with 18 interceptions over his four-year career. He then added four interceptions against higher-level competition in two college all-star games following his final season.
The pre-draft scouting report on Jerome by Lance Zierlein of NFL.com noted his “outstanding instincts and ball skills,” as well as his excellent hands. Added Zierlein: “(He) seems to find access to a second gear with the ball in the air.”
But at 5-foot-10 and 204 pounds, Jerome is on the small side and his speed and technique didn’t rank with the best safeties in the draft.
Yet with the 49ers, Jerome has been impressive. When San Francisco general manager John Lynch was talking recently about players who have stood out to him in the offseason program, Jerome was among them.
“We’re intrigued (by him),” Lynch said recently in an interview on KNBR. “There’s always the question, ‘OK, he went to St. Francis, Division I FCS, how does that translate (to pro football)?’ But I played with Ronde Barber (at Tampa Bay) and the ball always just found him. What you realized after a while is that it’s not finding him, he’s finding it. That’s the way (Jerome) has been out there. I think he led our team during OTAs in interceptions. … We’re excited to see if he can do enough to make this team.”