Thanks to the trade that sent former-49ers quarterback Alex Smith to the Kansas City Chiefs, San Francisco will enjoy having two second-round picks at its disposal in the 2014 draft.
The team has already addressed a pressing need in the first round—drafting a wide receiver by the likes of Kelvin Benjamin or Brandin Cooks. Now, it is time to solidify the secondary.
Bradley Roby, Cornerback
School: Ohio State
Height/Weight: 5'11"/192 pounds
There are plenty of things to like about Ohio State corner Bradley Roby. While his size is not exactly something that bodes well for the position, Roby is more than capable of using his speed to make plays. This facet was made clear by his prospectus on NFL Draft Scout.
That type of speed would fit well into the press-based scheme employed by San Francisco's defense and should benefit the team when it takes on some of the faster receivers within the NFC West.
In 2013, Roby amassed 54 tackles and 15 assists in limited action while ranking third in the Big Ten with 13 passes defended.
There are two things that have thwarted Roby's draft stock to date.
First, he has had some off-the-field issues, per CBS Sports, which likely will drive this first-round talent deep into the second round of the 2014 draft. This could make him available late in the second when the 49ers are looking to spend the pick acquired from Kansas City.
If properly coached, Roby has the potential to be a stalwart member of San Francisco's secondary for years to come. He has the tools to do so and should be considered a viable asset.
The 49ers secondary played surprisingly well in 2013—ranking seventh in the NFL in passing yards against (3,536). Thanks to stellar play by veteran corner Tarell Brown and the emergence of Tramaine Brock, San Francisco's backfield looked solid for much of the regular season.
Yet Brown is set to become a free agent after this season, as is fellow corner Eric Wright.
While it is yet to be determined whether or not the 49ers will entertain re-signing one, or both, of these cornerbacks, it is safe to assume San Francisco wants to solidify its secondary with the addition of a talented corner it can keep on roster for years to come.
There is no questioning the importance of a vaunted pass rush in today's pass-first NFL. But a gifted secondary complements that element and considering the possible departure of two veteran corners, the 49ers would look to go after a player like Roby in the second round.
San Francisco drafts Roby with the No. 24 pick in the second round (acquired from Kansas City). Then it looks to its next second-round pick to continue its bolstering of the defensive backfield.
Ahmad Dixon, Strong Safety
Height/Weight: 6'0"/205 pounds
Having patrolled the backfield for Baylor for the better part of four years, strong safety Ahmad Dixon is a player that the 49ers should keep their eyes on come draft day.
He has good height and weight for the position and excellent speed, per his draft portfolio on NFL Draft Scout, which ranks him No. 2 out of 167 strong safeties.
Here is Dane Brugler's description of him from CBS Sports:
Strengths: Extremely fast downhill and loves to get his hands dirty in the run game, striking through his target with strong hands to finish. Dixon has an accurate first step with the quickness and range to play both sidelines with an alert, active mentality. Displays the feet and overall body coordination to hold up on an island if needed. Excellent size/speed athlete with the fluidity and natural speed to cover the entire field, making plays behind the line of scrimmage and in the deep half of the field. Works hard to shed blocks to make open-field stops and is a physical tackler. He is confident in coverage to jump routes and aggressively go after the ball.
Weaknesses: He still needs some technique and recognition work when it comes to coverage. Needs to consistently wrap up and not just hit his target with body shots.
The size and speed is something to consider and would fit well into San Francisco's backfield. Stopping the run should also be paramount to the 49ers scheme. In addition, coverage skills can be coached over time—look no further than how the 49ers were able to coach up Donte Whitner in this regard.
According to CBS Sports, Dixon is slated to be drafted either late in the second, or early in the third round.
Dixon supplies an immediate need if, in case, the 49ers elect to part ways with current strong safety Whitner.
Whitner will finish the final year of his three-year, $11.65 million contract this season and is set to become a free agent. Given his accolades, including being named to the Pro Bowl in 2012, it is likely that Whitner will command a lofty contract this offseason.
Whether or not the 49ers elect to retain Whitner's services, the fact remains that San Francisco will likely be looking for their strong safety of the future. Here is where Dixon's stock is something of value.
In many ways, Dixon emulates Whitner, including his size. As a rookie, Dixon would be a much more affordable option.
San Francisco uses its own second-round pick (between Nos. 29 and 32) to draft Dixon.
Pending how the 49ers trade their picks to this point, the 49ers could also consider either trading up for strong safety Deone Bucannon, who is ranked as the No. 1 strong safety in this draft class, per CBS Sports. Again, there are plenty of trade chips to make this happen and, similar to Dixon, drafting Bucannon would give the 49ers an answer to a potential Whitner departure.
San Francisco's other second-round pick may also be used on an additional wide receiver like Jordan Matthews—cousin of 49ers great Jerry Rice.
While the 49ers have likely tabbed a wideout in the first round, a second receiver should be another strong target.
This might require a trade-up, although Rob Rang of CBS Sports has the 49ers drafting Matthews in the second round.