Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

49ers’ K’Waun Williams, Jason Verrett, Jimmie Ward rank among PFF’s top defensive backs

Jun 1, 2021 at 6:44 AM--

Pro Football Focus released its rankings of the top 32 outside cornerbacks and top 32 slot cornerbacks ahead of the 2021 season, and one player in each category represented the San Francisco 49ers. Jason Verrett came in at No. 22 among outside corners, while Williams sits at No. 8 within his respective group.

San Francisco re-signed Verrett to a one-year deal in March. The defender reportedly turned down a multi-year offer to return to the 49ers. He initially signed with the team in 2019. Still, he did not see significant playing time until last season, as further injuries delayed his return from the torn Achilles tendon suffered before the 2018 season.

"Verrett exceeded all expectations in his return from a string of injuries last season for San Francisco," wrote Ben Linsey. "The 2014 first-round pick looked like an ascending star with a 90.9 coverage grade in his second year in the NFL, but he managed to take the field for just over 300 total snaps the following four seasons combined."

Verrett, who entered the league as the No. 25 overall pick by the then-San Diego Chargers, recorded 60 tackles, seven passes defensed, and two interceptions through 13 games with the 49ers in 2020. He landed on injured reserve during his 2014 rookie campaign and then in 2016, 2017, 2018, and 2019.

"Verrett fought back to earn a starting job with the 49ers in 2020 and put up a top-20 PFF grade among qualifying cornerbacks on a career-high 803 defensive snaps," Linsey continued. "Health remains the biggest concern for Verrett heading into next season."

Williams also rejoined San Francisco on a one-year deal in March after seeing some interest from the New York Jets and the Kansas City Chiefs in free agency.

"All the (offered) deals were pretty similar, at the time," Williams told reporters in March. "I just chose the Niners. I couldn't deny playing with some of my teammates, you know what I mean?"

The Cleveland Browns signed Williams as an undrafted free agent out of Pittsburgh in 2014. He initially signed with the 49ers in 2017.

"Williams fell victim to the injury onslaught in San Francisco last season, managing just under 300 total defensive snaps on the year due to multiple lower-body injuries," wrote Linsey. "His return in 2021 after signing a new contract with the team is one of several 'additions' that should give the 49ers defense a boost."

Williams registered 22 tackles, two sacks, four passes defensed, and a forced fumble through eight games with the 49ers in 2020. He has recorded 249 tackles, six sacks, 23 passes defensed, three interceptions, and 10 forced fumbles through his six NFL seasons.

"Williams has been one of the more reliable slot cornerbacks in the NFL over the course of his seven-year career," Linsey added. "He has never graded below 66.0 overall in a season, and his last full year in 2019 was arguably the best of his career (80.3 overall grade on over 700 snaps). He turned things up a notch in the postseason, allowing just 66 receiving yards into his coverage across three playoff contests."

Pro Football Focus also ranked the top 32 safeties, and San Francisco's Jimmie Ward came in at No. 19.

"Ward struggled early in his NFL career despite entering the league with the prestige of a first-round pick, but the last two seasons have seen him at his best," wrote Sam Monson. "Ward is coming off a season in which he earned better-than-average PFF grades across every facet of play. His biggest weakness has been a lack of plays on the football, with just two picks and 25 pass breakups across seven years of play."

Ward recorded 73 tackles, a quarterback hit, four passes defensed, and two forced fumbles with San Francisco in 2020, the defensive back's seventh season with the team that drafted him at No. 30 overall in 2014.

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