Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

Richard Sherman, K’Waun Williams help 49ers secondary earn top-10 ranking from PFF

Jul 28, 2020 at 6:34 AM--

Pro Football Focus continues its position-by-position rankings and has landed on NFL secondaries. Where does the San Francisco 49ers unit fall? It rounds out a top 10, which is understandably headlined by the Baltimore Ravens.

Analyst Steve Palazzolo gives some credit for the 49ers defense's turnaround last season to veteran cornerback Richard Sherman returning to form. Pro Football Focus lists him as the highest-graded cornerback from last season. Of course, age could start to play a factor. The 10-year veteran is 32 years old.

"Though he had a tough Super Bowl, Sherman allowed just 227 receiving yards in the regular season — and he allowed only 373 when you include the postseason — around 250 yards fewer than many of the game's other top corners," wrote Palazzolo.

Across from Sherman exists a bit more uncertainty. Emmanuel Moseley started in the Super Bowl after playing well down the stretch, but Palazzolo points out his costly mistake in the big game that allowed the Kansas City Chiefs to mount a comeback.

Then you have Ahkello Witherspoon, who played well early in the season before a foot sprain sidelined him. The then-third-year cornerback was never really able to return to form.

"Overall, Moseley was significantly more solid than Witherspoon," wrote Palazzolo, "and he actually allowed a passer rating more than 20 points lower, but the 49ers have a third-round pick invested in Witherspoon and may elect to give him one more shot."

Then there is the underrated K'Waun Williams, who is one of the game's best slot corners. He earned a Pro Football Focus grade of 77.2 last season while allowing only one touchdown when targeted.

At safety, the team has Jimmie Ward, who reached the end of the season unscathed and earned a new contract, and Jaquiski Tartt. Both contributed to the 49ers' placement within the ranking.

Palazzolo doesn't sound too confident that oft-injured veteran cornerback Jason Verrett can return and be a substantial contributor to a secondary which hasn't changed from last year. In six NFL seasons, he has only stayed off injured reserve for one.

"Few players have the kind of talent that Verrett does, but his 2019 season lasted just four snaps, and he has played only 112 snaps in the last four seasons," wrote Palazzolo. "The chances of him making an impact are minimal, but if he does, the upside is still massive."

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