Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports



Let's engage in an exercise in futility, shall we?

Close your eyes and think about the last time the 49ers had a shutdown cornerback. A guy who not only was relied upon to defend the opposing teams' top wide receiver but actually got the job done consistently.

Keep thinking.

The last notable contributor at that position was Carlos Rogers, but his production stemmed from being a great fit for Vic Fangio's aggressive defense, rather than being someone who quarterbacks feared throwing against.

Before that? Nate Clements. He was paid like an upper echelon player at the position, but he was nothing more than solid. Other than Clements, guys like Walt Harris, Ahmed Plummer, and even Mike Rumph come to mind. Meh.

Still thinking? Allow me to finish the thought for you. The last standout cornerback this team had was perhaps the best in the history of the NFL - Deion Sanders. In 1994.

Nineteen. Ninety. Four.

Enter second-year pro, Rashard Robinson, who has been receiving his fair share of hype this offseason by fans and media alike. A 4th-round selection in the 2016 NFL Draft out of LSU, Robinson is a tall and lanky corner at 6'1", 176 pounds, with more than adequate speed, physicality, and ball-tracking skills. Another notable facet of his game is his ability to recover on plays where he is beat initially, with great quickness, closing speed and ability to disrupt receivers from catching the ball - something typically difficult for taller defenders to do.


According to Pro Football Focus, Robinson's 13.2 coverage snaps per reception ranked No. 1 among rookie cornerbacks with at least 250 snaps in coverage last season. Even more impressive, he ranked 10th in coverage snaps per reception among all cornerbacks with at least 250 coverage snaps as well.

New 49ers' Defensive Coordinator Robert Saleh will be implementing a 4-3 defense with Cover-3 coverage principles, a scheme he knows well having spent time with the Seattle Seahawks and Jacksonville Jaguars in recent years. Many have compared Robinson favorably to Seahawks' All-Pro Richard Sherman, high praise for a second-year player. However, Robinson's aforementioned quickness and ability to make up ground and close on the ball may very well be where the comparisons will stop, as that is not a part of Sherman's repertoire. And like Sherman, Robinson is not afraid of talking trash, which displays the air of confidence many of the greats at the position traditionally possess.

Although 49ers fans may not like Sherman (and that may be quite the understatement), they'd certainly enjoy having a player like him on their team.

Surely this is coincidental, but Sherman wears No. 25 with the Seahawks. Robinson recently changed his number to No. 26, after donning No. 33 during his rookie campaign. If you're keeping score at home, that's one digit higher.

And hopefully for the 49ers, one digit better.