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The Secondary debate...how are they evaluated?

Sup fellow Zoners, I post this topic with the conundrum of how to evaluate the cornerback/safety positions in the draft. All other positions seem to have a formula (although there are ALWAYS exception to the rules) that al evaluators seem to follow, but with cornerbacks there seems to be a HUGE disparity.

Based on what I've read and heard, these are our top CB options in the 1st:

Justin Gilbert, OkST
Darqueze Dennard, MichST
Bradley Roby, OhioST
Kyle Fuller, VaTech
Jason Verrett, TCU

Now, I never watched Gilbert or Fuller all last year, but saw a ton of Dennard, Roby, and Verrett. So, to even it out, I watched highlight/lowlight YouTube videos for all 5 of these prospects. Based on the evidence and some read through the Zone/NFL.com/ESPN/GBN, etc., here's where I stand for best 1st Round CBs for the 49ers system:

1. Kyle Fuller

Pro: Didn't see too many of his games, but looking at his highlight/lowlight videos, I have to say, this kid is the real deal. 6'0, 195lbs, long arms, and mid-4.4 speed, his greatest strength is I saw him play all across the field, from outside, to slot, to up on the line where he played great run support. A true "Swiss Army Knife" kind of guy, who in the hands of Vic Fangio, could be the guy who saves this secondary.

Con: There were a few "burn" plays, where Fuller got lost on the double move (a specialty of Percy Harvin) and showed some issues on press. Overall, not too many flaws.



2. Darqueze Dennard

Pro: Watching between the season and his highlights, this kid is the epitome of "press corner". He is aggressive at the point of attack, covers man to man, and is a solid lockdown corner. His big time games against Ohio State and Stanford showed he plays his best when the competition is at its greatest.

Con: Although physical, his size (5'11, 190lbs) will limit him against the 6'5 WRs on jump balls. He has shown limits in the slot against speed WRs, although he played great in slot vs TEs. His true limitation is in Zone coverage. He is a true man-to-man press guy, but lacks the coverage range to play zone. Since the 49ers play limited zone, Dennard could be THE guy we need.

3. Jason Verrett

Pro: Probably the best slot CB in draft. LOVED watching him play and showed no fear against any player, from coverage to run support. Fast, strong, and consistent as a starter, he also has a knack for causing turnovers, which all teams need. Also, will be perfect against Harvin and Austin speed wise, and probably has the most spectacular tackling technique of the top CBs.

Con: 5'9, 189lbs (on a good day) limits what you can do in the Pros. If we were to draft him, he'd be killer in press, but his sole position would be slot CB. Won't work on covering guys like Fitzgerald, Graham, Floyd, Evans (if drafted by Rams), who'll have over 8 inches on him.

4. Bradley Roby

Pro: He is a killer athlete who constantly showed improvement every year at Ohio State. Can play both zone and man, is physical, and has shown stretches of brilliance.

Con: Inconsistent and gets lost during games. His highest perk is the "possibility" is that he's still developing and has the talent to be great, but depends on his will. I see him more as a "Malcolm Jenkins"-type, who will have solid numbers as a CB, but not in the 49ers system.

5. Justin Gilbert

Pro: He's a super-athlete who can play pretty much any specialty position, from CB/S/WR/Returner. His size (6'0, 202lbs) also makes him an amazing specimen to have at the secondary. Also, his success at returner will fill two needed positions for the 49ers. Also, shown to have great hands for interceptions.

Con: Will require too many draft picks to move up to get him, but I also saw way too many break aways (ala West Virginia game) that saw him fall over and get beat on inside slants. May have to focus on outside more than inside coverage of slot, limiting his value and if we'd have to put so much draft wise down, the CB should be able to play all spots.


Now, I've based all my analysis on "49ers needs", not overall talent. Due to our lack of secondary starters and now the Culliver situation, I think we are in dire need of fixing this secondary ASAP. I propose we pull off a 1981 Draft, where we pick up top secondary talent and allow our top tier front 7 and experienced safeties to educate/empower the talented secondary.

My personal choice: Trade up for Fuller and Verrett. Fuller would be paired with Brock as starters, and play Verrett/Cook at Nickel (depending on who wins out).
[ Edited by Crazy49er1313 on Mar 31, 2014 at 3:34 PM ]
You see Bradley Roby as a Malcolm Jenkins type? How so?
Con: 5'9, 175-180lbs




Verrett weighed in at 189 pounds. That's one less pound than Fuller, six less pounds than Roby.
Originally posted by VPofCarnage:
You see Bradley Roby as a Malcolm Jenkins type? How so?

I know Jenkins is much bigger, but he had the same "numbers", but I felt he never met his potential at CB (though, his play at safety is solid).

Do you think Roby would be good for us? I don't mind being wrong, I just have a hard time evaluating secondary players, so I thought I'd try it out and see how far off or spot on my analysis was.
  • mayo49
  • Veteran
  • Posts: 22,051
I agree with your Fuller assessment. He's exactly what we're looking for.
Originally posted by Phoenix49ers:
Con: 5'9, 175-180lbs



Verrett weighed in at 189 pounds. That's one less pound than Fuller, six less pounds than Roby.

189lbs? Oh crap, read wrong stats (Aaron Colvin), will fix. Thanks
I still see Dennard as the #1 corner in this class. Gilbert has great tools but Dennard is more polished and ready for the NFL imo.
Originally posted by mayo49:
I agree with your Fuller assessment. He's exactly what we're looking for.

My only issues with Fuller have to do with stuff that is largely coachable. Bad footwork, faulty use of hands...etc, things that Donatell could certainly work on him with. He has good awareness, is fairly dependable in man coverage, seems to lose focus at times, was beaten deep a few times because he misread the play. He's a sound tackler, plays very tough against the run, versatile, there's a lot to like.

I expect him to be a pretty good #2 CB in the NFL for a long time.
Originally posted by genus49:
I still see Dennard as the #1 corner in this class. Gilbert has great tools but Dennard is more polished and ready for the NFL imo.

I agree with this. Gilbert has become massively overrated. Good cornerback, I like him a lot but IMO he's not a Joe Haden or even a Patrick Peterson at the next level, he's a high quality #2 CB that has become overly hyped because this draft class is loaded in the middle but relatively weak up top.


Dennard has the tools to be a truly elite cornerback, doesn't blow you with his size or athleticism but has unreal awareness out on the football field, plays at times like he has eyes in the back of his head, just locking things down, incredibly dominant.




If there is one guy in this entire draft that I'd be happy with the 49ers trading up for, it would be Dennard. He's got legit #1 CB potential. If the signing of Cook does foretell the 49er's plans to play more physical, press coverage, Dennard would be the ideal guy to go with. Putting Dennard and Brock on the outside and Wright at the slot would not be a bad way to go at all. Brock's not really tall but he's damn well built for his size, close to 200 pounds. Dennard has a solid build, they could take a guy like McGill or Desir to develop down the road as well.




ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. said today that the MSU senior cornerback has a chance to go in the first round of April's NFL draft. CBS college football columnist Dennis Dodd took it a step further, citing a report that compared Dennard to former NFL star corner Deion Sanders.

The 77-page report from NFL talent evaluator Dave-Te Thomas concluded that Dennard "might be that 'next great shutdown cornerback' a Big Ten school has produced," Dodd wrote.

It said 77 throws have come to Dennard's area this season, with just 10 completed for 60 yards and two touchdowns. That's 0.779 of a yard per attempt, and the report said Sanders — a Florida State standout from 1985-88 — was the last corner to allow less than a yard per attempt.


http://www.freep.com/article/20131114/SPORTS07/311140113/michigan-state-spartans




If the 49ers stand pat, my clear favorite is Verrett. He's a true playmaker in every sense of the word, he put his hands on more passes than any other cornerback in this draft. He gets up and attacks the ball in the air with an almost insane level of ferocity. He's got the right attitude, demeanor and plays with a chip on his shoulder. He's clearly dedicated himself to improving and would make an ideal addition to this defense. Between him and Brock the 49ers could rack up a dozen INT's or better.


If they trade up, Dennard is the dude.


I would not be upset with Fuller at all, he'd be a nice starter right off the bat.


I don't want to see them trade up for Gilbert.


I want no part of Roby at all, weaknesses in technique, lack of athleticism, all different things that can be coached up or worked out, but when a guy seems to not have it all together upstairs, that's a scary situation.
[ Edited by Phoenix49ers on Mar 31, 2014 at 3:59 PM ]
Originally posted by Crazy49er1313:
189lbs? Oh crap, read wrong stats (Aaron Colvin), will fix. Thanks

Dennard is also 199 pounds, not 190.
Originally posted by genus49:
I still see Dennard as the #1 corner in this class. Gilbert has great tools but Dennard is more polished and ready for the NFL imo.

I agree Gilbert is not the #1 corner (when he was bad, he was BAD!) and even with his athleticism, he doesn't warrant a #1 CB grade.

As for Dennard, I really really REALLY like him and see him as a tremendous talent. My only issue is his lack of versatility at the slot, which is why Fuller got a slightly higher grade. Also, I think we'd have to give up more draft wise for Dennard rather than Fuller, so that's why I have Fuller over Dennard.

If we snagged Dennard instead, then we would drastically need a slot guy. Possibly Purifoy/Watkins/Joyner?
Fuller (from NFL.com):
ANALYSIS
STRENGTHS Good size and balance. Plays faster than he times thanks to keen instincts, anticipation and route recognition. Zone aware with good eyes, ball reactions and hands to intercept. Outstanding leaping ability. Willing run supporter. Has special-teams experience, including as a gunner and jammer. Tough and durable -- logged 42 career starts. Team captain who understands what it means to be a pro. Was a 21-year-old senior.
WEAKNESSES Needs to get stronger. Man-cover limitations. Lacks ideal speed and twitch for the position. Has a choppy pedal and some tightness in transition. Gives up separation at the break point. Average ball production. Squats on routes and is susceptible to double moves. Could stand to shore up his tackling -- struggles to break down in space and slips off some tackles.
BOTTOM LINE Narrow-framed, confident, competitive off-man/zone corner who should contribute readily on special teams while pushing for a role in sub packages.

Ran a 4.49 at the combine and is described as lacking ideal speed. I think he's a slightly worse athlete than Dennard and he plays off his man rather than press so I'm not sure why he's the best fit. I think Dennard and Verrett are the best fits but Verrett is the best value since he would probably not require a trade up and we need to cover Harvin and Austin.

Dennard, Fuller, and Verrett all seem like high floor guys who can play immediately while Roby and Gilbert have higher ceilings than any of them. I love Gilbert's length and athleticism for a press corner, but I don't know if it would be worth it to trade up to 10 or 11 to get him.
[ Edited by eastcoast49ersfan on Mar 31, 2014 at 4:01 PM ]
Our D fense goin be weak dis year.
Originally posted by eastcoast49ersfan:
Fuller (from NFL.com):
ANALYSIS
STRENGTHS Good size and balance. Plays faster than he times thanks to keen instincts, anticipation and route recognition. Zone aware with good eyes, ball reactions and hands to intercept. Outstanding leaping ability. Willing run supporter. Has special-teams experience, including as a gunner and jammer. Tough and durable -- logged 42 career starts. Team captain who understands what it means to be a pro. Was a 21-year-old senior.
WEAKNESSES Needs to get stronger. Man-cover limitations. Lacks ideal speed and twitch for the position. Has a choppy pedal and some tightness in transition. Gives up separation at the break point. Average ball production. Squats on routes and is susceptible to double moves. Could stand to shore up his tackling -- struggles to break down in space and slips off some tackles.
BOTTOM LINE Narrow-framed, confident, competitive off-man/zone corner who should contribute readily on special teams while pushing for a role in sub packages.

Ran a 4.49 at the combine and is described as lacking ideal speed. I think he's a slightly worse athlete than Dennard and he plays off his man rather than press so I'm not sure why he's the best fit. I think Dennard and Verrett are the best fits but Verrett is the best value since he would probably not require a trade up and we need to cover Harvin and Austin.

Dennard, Fuller, and Verrett all seem like high floor guys who can play immediately while Roby and Gilbert have higher ceilings than any of them. I love Gilbert's length and athleticism for a press corner, but I don't know if it would be worth it to trade up to 10 or 11 to get him.

This. People hear he's 6'0", 202 and runs a 4.35 40 and that is all they seem to hear. I see him being a solid cornerback, but not really any better than Fuller ultimately. I've liked Gilbert for a long time but still see his value as early 20's to late 1st round, no earlier than that.



I would much rather the 49ers take Verrett or Fuller then use one of their latter picks on another CB such as Watkins, and end up with two quality CB prospects than trade up for Gilbert.
[ Edited by Phoenix49ers on Mar 31, 2014 at 4:07 PM ]
Mike Mayock ranks Kyle Fuller ahead of Justin Gilbert the kid is really impressing him intrigues me