It’s not a surprise that the 49ers would go for the secondary with their first-round pick, but the actual player in question is rather unexpected. Ward played safety in college, where the 49ers already added Antoine Bethea to their corps. What they needed was an extra cornerback to help out in the slot position.
Ward, however, played some nickel cornerback in college, making 12 starts at the position. The front office may well use him in a big nickel package, with him coming on the field as the fifth defensive back.
Bleacher Report's Peter Panacy has the complete breakdown of Ward’s fit with San Francisco here.
I’m not sure I would have taken Ward over either Bradley Roby or Lamarcus Joyner, both still on the board as cornerbacks at the 30th pick. Ward wasn’t going to make it all the way to the 49ers' next pick, however, so it’s a pick to be cautiously optimistic about.
With their first-round pick used on a defensive back, the 49ers still have a hole at wide receiver, and it wouldn’t at all be a surprise to see them try to find a player there with their next pick. They could also look to shore up the interior of their offensive line now that Jonathan Goodwin has left town. They could also look to bolster their pass rush and provide insurance should Aldon Smith’s legal issues continue to spiral.
The 49ers have five picks during Day 2 of the draft, so they have plenty of options left to fill those holes. They’re next slated to pick at No. 56—here are some of the names they could be looking at to fill their remaining needs.
Marqise Lee, WR, USC or Cody Latimer, WR, Indiana
Both Lee and Latimer were considered by some to be first-round picks, yet both have slid down to the second day of the draft. The 49ers could take their two second-round picks and go up to get any player they so choose. Trading up for one of the top two receivers remaining makes plenty of sense.
Of the two, Marqise Lee is the better playmaker. He’d be an instant star in the return game, but he’d also bring a sense of vision and elusiveness to the third receiver position. When you get the ball into his hands, he can fly, which is something that neither Michael Crabtree nor Anquan Boldin really brings to the table.
Cody Latimer would have worried me as a first-round pick, due to his meteoric rise over the past month, but in the second round, his potential is definitely interesting enough to grab. His 4.4 40-yard dash at his pro day wowed scouts, and with a 39-inch vertical leap, he has the ability to go up and grab things. He’s probably not a deep threat, but he could take over for Anquan Boldin when he retires.
The 49ers should definitely make a move for one of these two players to fill their largest remaining need.
Davante Adams, WR, Fresno State, Jarvis Landry, WR, LSU or Jordan Matthews, WR, Vanderbilt
If the 49ers don’t trade up, it’s not the end of the world—the next batch of receivers should fall somewhere around pick No. 56 naturally.
Adams is a pretty pure possession receiver with a 39.5-inch vertical jump. NFL.com has compared him to a “poor man’s Michael Crabtree” with exceptional production against lesser competition in college.
Landry, cousin of 49ers defensive tackle Glenn Dorsey, is a polished passion receiver himself who fell due to a poor showing at the NFL combine. He’s a tough player after the catch and has big strong hands to fight for balls in traffic
Matthews has the best pedigree of the three, being a distant cousin of Jerry Rice. He probably has the highest floor of any of these prospects—he doesn’t have the agility or frame to really become a superstar receiver, but he’s got great hands and is decent pretty much everywhere else.
Any of the three would make logical picks at No. 56.
Marcus Martin, C, USC
Picking Martin would be attempting to solve an issue for the 2015 season. As it stands right now, Daniel Kilgore is penciled in at center, but he’s also been the primary backup guard the last few years. When Mike Iupati’s contract expires next year, the 49ers might be hard-pressed to keep him.
Drafting Martin, then, would soften the blow of potentially losing Iupati. Either Kilgore or Martin could start at center, and the other could start at guard. It’d be shoring up the interior of the offensive line for years to come.