Chris Culliver? In the third round?
Not only was the selection of Culliver widely regarded as a reach, but some even said he would've likely remained on the board as late as the sixth or seventh round.
Seemingly more baffling than the pick itself—was the question of where Trent Baalke and Co. even planned to use him in the NFL.
The 6'0", 199-pound South Carolina product spent three seasons at the safety position before eventually starting five games at corner his senior year. He also graduated as the school's all-time leader in return yards after returning 106 kickoffs for 2,476 yards—which both rank third in SEC history.
Despite Culliver being labeled as a "project" for the 49ers and someone who would require multiple seasons in the NFL to develop into a starter, "Cully" flourished throughout his rookie campaign in red and gold.
He made some mistakes as well, but clearly outperformed expectations. And did so despite the lockout-shortened offseason attempting to hinder Culliver's progress.
Heading into his sophomore season, Culliver should be ready to take over the starting cornerback slot opposite Carlos Rogers. Of course, Rogers is currently entrenched as the No. 1 CB on the depth chart, but the seven-year veteran will be 31 this summer, and unless you're Darrell Green—you aren't going to play in the secondary at a Pro Bowl level forever.
The next few slides will highlight why I believe Culliver is a star in the making and has the potential to become one of the best defensive backs the 49ers franchise has ever seen.