How 49ers Can Improve Secondary Through the Draft
The San Francisco 49ers signed safety Craig Dahl to a three-year contract on Saturday.
After San Francisco's secondary got torched by Joe Flacco in the Superbowl, it is crucial that the 49ers improve their pass defense.
But is Dahl the answer?
This slideshow will explain what the 49ers must do this offseason to make sure that their secondary is ready to face the NFL's most explosive passing attacks in 2013.
Expectations for Craig Dahl
Dahl is a serviceable starter. He is a better option than C.J. Spillman, who was Goldson's backup last season.
However, Dahl is not a playmaker like Dashon Goldson. He will not make the 49ers' defense better than it was last season.
I expect that the 49ers signed Dahl for his experience. He played his last four years with the St. Louis Rams, so he has familiarity with the NFC West. He also has contributed on special teams throughout his career.
I believe that the 49ers will start Dahl as safety only if they do not get someone better in the draft.
After signing Dahl, it is crucial that the 49ers pick up a free agent cornerback to improve the secondary.
Carlos Rogers and Chris Culliver are both streaky players. Terrell Brown has been consistent, but he cannot be relied on to cover other team's top receivers.
The 49ers have reportedly been interested in Nnamdi Asomugha. Although he has had two bad years in Philadelphia, there is a chance that the former Golden Bear and Oakland Raider could revert to his old self in the familiar stomping grounds of the Bay Area.
Antoine Winfield is another possibility. Despite being 35 years old, he still can play at a high level. He could contribute for a year, giving younger guys time to develop.
Brent Grimes is another option, though he is coming off a season-ending knee injury.
All three players would be an improvement over Carlos Rogers, whose 2011 season is beginning to look like a fluke.
Should the 49ers pick up a serviceable free agent corner, they would probably release Rogers. They could then use at least two of their 14 draft picks to add talent and depth to their secondary.
Look for the 49ers to find Dashon Goldson's replacement in the first half of the draft.
Florida's Matt Elam and Kenny Vaccaro (pictured above) are considered the two best safeties in this year's stock. However, both will probably be gone by the time the 49ers are on the board.
This could change if the 49ers decide to trade up in the draft.
But since they signed Dahl, they will likely wait until the second or third round. Guys like Eric Reid (LSU), Robert Lester (Alabama) and T.J. McDonald (USC) are all options.
Each one of them is similar to a young Goldson in the sense that they are athletic and physical but sometimes over-aggressive.
I expect the 49ers to draft a player who can compete with Dahl for the starting spot. The rookie could use Dahl's knowledge of the game to help ease his transition into the NFL.
An advantage of waiting until the second or third round to get a safety is that it allows the 49ers to get an instant starter on the defensive line or cornerback—needs that are more important now that San Francisco has a serviceable starter in Dahl at safety.