San Francisco 49ers: Trends in Mock Drafts for First Round Cornerbacks
Unlike the wide receiver rankings, there’s much less of a consensus as to the top cornerback in the draft. Five cornerbacks show up in one of the 20 mock drafts used for this sample, but the order fluctuates wildly. There isn’t a Sammy Watkins-type who is so far above the rest of the field as to be the consensus top pick.
Using all 20 mocks in bulk, however, we can get a general picture of where the cornerbacks are expected to go, and what, if anything, the 49ers would have to do to ensure they got the corner of their choice in the first round.
As a reminder, the 20 mock drafts used for these statistics are from CBS, ESPN, NFL.com, Sporting News, Rotoworld and Sports Illustrated. With these mocks, we’ll get a better picture at the shape of the draft at the cornerback position.
Let’s look at what the mocks have to say about the top corners available.
Justin Gilbert, Oklahoma State
Highest Selection: Minnesota at No. 8 (ESPN’s Todd McShay)
Median Selection: Tennessee at No. 11 (three different writers)
Most common selection: Detroit at No. 10 (nine different writers)
Gibert’s the only cornerback that no mock draft has falling all the way to the 49ers at No. 30.
The two oldest mocks in the database are the two Rotoworld mock drafts, both of whom have Gilbert going in the mid-20s. Throw them out, along with Pete Prisco of CBS, and every other mock has Gilbert going in the top 15 picks of the draft.
The Vikings with the eighth pick seems a bit high, and even Todd McShay doesn’t seem sold on the selection. He mentions that the Vikings would likely trade out of the spot rather than draft Gilbert, but would take him if they were stuck.
The Lions at No. 10 overall, however, seem like a very logical landing point. The current starting lineup would be 33-year-old Rashean Mathis and Chris Houston, who had an awful season last year. Adding Gilbert would shore up Detroit's secondary.
If the 49ers decided they had to have Gilbert, they’d have to jump up into the top 10 and past the Lions. The Buffalo Bills at No. 9 overall could be an option; the Bills biggest need is a guard, and Xavier Su’a-Filo is probably going to be available at No. 30.
It’d be a hefty move up for Gilbert, however, and I don’t think it’d be worth the cost.
Darqueze Dennard, Michigan State
Highest Selection: Detroit at No. 10 (Sporting News)
Lowest Selection: Not a first-round pick (Rotoworld’s Josh Norris)
Median Selection: Pittsburgh at No. 15 (eight different writers)
Most common selection: Pittsburgh at No. 15 (eight different writers)
Every cornerback after Gilbert is projected by at least one mock draft in this sample to be available at No. 30. Similarly, 16 of the 20 mock drafts have at least one of the cornerbacks available when the 49ers go on the clock.
Trading up, therefore, may not be necessary to ensure a top-five cornerback in this year’s draft.
The least likely of the group to fall all the way down is Dennard, who only tumbles out of the first round in the oldest of the drafts in the sample. His polish as a three-year starter trumps the greater athleticism of some of his cornerback rivals in many of the mocks.
Sporting News had Detroit picking Dennard over Gilbert, but that is a minority opinion. Most drafts have him slipping past the first corner-needy teams into the middle of the first round, where Pittsburgh would gladly grab him—the best player for their biggest need.
Jumping Pittsburgh would likely be required to ensure Dennard’s services, so the 49ers could consider trading up with the Chicago Bears at No. 14. The Bears still need defensive line help, and someone like Louis Nix III could be sitting at No. 30 overall.
Chicago would be the best target to trade with if the 49ers wanted Dennard.
Bradley Roby, Ohio State
Highest Selection: Arizona at No. 20 (two different writers)
Lowest Selection: Not a first-round pick (four different writers)
Median Selection: Cincinnati at No. 24 (four different writers)
Most common selection: Philadelphia at No. 22 (six different writers)
The picks in the 20s are the biggest problem for San Francisco when it comes to getting the corner of their choice. Six of the ten teams in that range are mocked taking a cornerback in at least one mock draft.
In some drafts, including CBS’s Dane Brugler, four corners go in those ten picks.
I fluctuate on this some, but at the moment, Roby’s my favorite corner in the draft. He’s a bit on the small side at only 5’11”, but then, none of the top corners in this draft are giants. His 4.39 40-yard dash is great, and he plays with an aggressive mentality which is appealing.
That’s why most of the mocks have him going in the upper-20s, as opposed to falling down past San Francisco. I’m not so sure he makes sense in Arizona, where the Cardinals already signed Antonio Cromartie, but either Philadelphia or Cincinnati would benefit greatly from his services.
Jumping past the Philadelphia Eagles might be necessary to ensure Roby’s selection, so the Green Bay Packers at No. 21 are likely trade targets. They don’t have a pressing need for a cornerback or a wide receiver, so they’d likely be the most receptive trade partner for the 49ers, no matter who they want to go get.
Kyle Fuller, Virginia Tech
Highest Selection: Detroit at No. 10 (CBS’s Pete Prisco)
Lowest Selection: Not a first-round pick (four different writers)
Median Selection: San Diego at No. 25 (five different writers)
Most common selection: San Diego at No. 25 (five different writers)
Fuller’s been riding up draft boards recently: Three of the four mock drafts that have him falling out of the first round were done at least three weeks ago. Only Pat Kirwan still has Fuller missing the first round.
On the flip side, Pete Prisco has Fuller going as the first corner off the board, with the Lions opting for him over Gilbert and Dennard. That seems like quite a stretch; no one else has him in their top 15.
The late 20s feels about right for Fuller; he’s not an elite athlete, but has good reaction times and quickness. The Chargers really could use an influx of young talent at the corner position, and whichever corner drops to 25 will likely be their selection.
Roby and Fuller are valued just about at the same spot in the drafts overall, so getting either player would require about the same commitment for the 49ers. I think Roby fits San Francisco’s scheme better, but the players are close enough talent-wise for it to be a matter of personal preference.
Jason Verrett, TCU
Highest Selection: Philadelphia at No. 22 (NFL.com’s Chase Goodbread)
Lowest Selection: Not a first-round pick (five different writers)
Median Selection: San Francisco at No. 30 (five different writers)
Most common selection: San Francisco at No. 30 (five different writers)
Over the 20 mock drafts, the 49ers take eight different players. Three of them stand out above the rest.
Four mocks apiece have the 49ers taking either USC wide receiver Marqise Lee or Virginia Tech cornerback Kyle Fuller, but the most common selection for the 49ers is in fact Jason Verrett, with five selections.
I think this is less of a glowing recommendation for Verrett than it is a simple statement that he’s the best around at the No. 30 slot. Four of the five mocks with the 49ers taking Verrett have all the other four corners listed here gone, while all the mocks with the 49ers taking Fuller have at least one other cornerback remaining on the board at the time.
The 5'9", 189-pound Verrett is the smallest of the top five corners in the draft. Only 19 cornerbacks were listed at 5’9” or lower last season. That’s not a guarantee that Verrett can’t play—both Chicago's Tim Jennings in Chicago and Captain Munnerlyn, now with Minnesota, did well as short cornerbacks—but it is, however, a notable drawback.
Verrett’s speed and ball skills are enough to push him into a first- or second-round grade, but he’s the closest thing we have to a consensus as the lowest of the first-round corners. That’s a fine pick at No. 30, mind you, but it’s really not something that warrants moving around the draft board.
Verrett might well be the best worst-case scenario selection—if the 49ers are unable to make a decent deal to go up and get someone else, Verrett would make a fine addition to the team. He just isn’t worth vaulting the Chargers or Bengals to go get him.