Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports
As part of a very distinguished 2011 49ers draft class, Chris Culliver has emerged as a major role player in only two years.
As a rookie third-rounder, San Francisco fancied the idea of getting Culliver involved early, so that’s what it did.
Through his rookie year, Culliver competed in 617 total snaps in 2011 (h/t Sacramento Bee), operating on the perimeter often. In his sophomore season, he saw increased time, participating in 775 snaps in 2012 (h/t CSN Bay Area).
Prior to his pro career, Culliver started at safety and cornerback at South Carolina and was also the team's top returner on special teams. In his freshman year in 2007, the versatile Philadelphia native was even listed as a wide receiver (h/t College Football Stats).
Culliver’s position flexibility makes him an asset, which leads to an interesting point.
With Nnamdi Asomugha now in the picture (h/t ESPN), the 49ers are flush at the cornerback position, but still pained at safety. While they will likely draft a FS-type on the backend, there should be no reason Culliver can’t compete for the job in training camp.
San Francisco has been developing Culliver, and he’s been playing solid ball, but this is not out of the realm of reason. He was a proficient college safety and scouts believed he could play the position at the next level.
In 24 starts at safety for the Gamecocks, Culliver managed 122 tackles, three interceptions and 15 pass deflections. And as a do-it-all defensive back, he also made 7.5 tackles for a loss, which included three sacks (h/t CFB Sports Reference).
With the freedom of the position, Culliver (6'0", 199 lbs) was able to really utilize his instincts and athleticism.
And having run a 4.36 40-yard dash at the NFL combine (via NFL Draft Scout), Culliver has the straight-line speed to become the rangy cover safety San Francisco covets.
With the way the 49ers do their due diligence, do not be surprised to hear this storyline develop into the season. They should explore all options, and since they drafted Culliver, they should know two-thirds of his game film was at free safety.
With his versatility and background, Culliver’s role may increase on defense and special teams for a third year in a row.