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Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

Who are realistic draft candidates for the 49ers at cornerback?

Rohan Chakravarthi
Apr 5, 2023 at 2:40 PM--

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The San Francisco 49ers are in a unique position with the 2023 NFL Draft, as they are poised to have their first selection only at the backend of the third round after trading away their first and second-round picks in the Trey Lance and Christian McCaffrey trades, respectively.

Given their draft position, it's tough to identify who will be available and exactly what the 49ers may do in regard to moving up and down the board at their spots.

Last week, in an interview with 49ers Webzone's Rohan Chakravarthi, The Draft Network's Justin Melo, who has done over 700 draft pick interviews over his career, helped identify realistic draft candidates for the 49ers at each of their positions of need.

Melo believes, given the loss of longtime starter Mike McGlinchey in free agency, that a trade-up could be in the works for a potential right tackle, while cornerback could be of value to the team as well.

"They've got so many Day 3 picks right well after the third round that I would imagine John Lynch, Adam Peters, they do try to move up at some point. I look at that right tackle position," Melo said. "And I look at cornerback as well. I think corner can use some better depth. I think interior O-line could use some better depth… So I look at those positions, corner and right tackle especially, stick out to me. Then I look at the trenches that's the way they've built this team, right, I think from the inside out."

The 49ers currently have Colton McKivitz at right tackle, who appears to be the leader in the clubhouse, but general manager John Lynch openly said that it would be a competition for the starting job.

At cornerback, after the signing of Isaiah Oliver, it appears the 49ers have four locks at the position: the newly-signed Oliver, Charvarius Ward, Deommodore Lenoir, and Samuel Womack. Ambry Thomas's spot is no longer guaranteed after back-to-back uninspiring training camps, meaning the 49ers could look for one or two more depth pieces to fill out their rotation.

Along the interior of the offensive line, the 49ers lost Daniel Brunskill in free agency, who was their primary backup, which could open up a spot in the later rounds for a selection to compete with unproven players like Nick Zakelj and Jason Poe.


The cornerback class appears to be extremely deep in 2023, according to Melo, who has 30 draftable players at the position; a significant amount, benefitting the 49ers in their search for extra depth.

"There's a theme here and this is good for the San Francisco 49ers. You look at the corner position, you look at the edge position, I think they're the position [in the 2023 NFL Draft], I really do," Melo said. "I got 30 draftable grades at corner and I got another, like, 30 draftable grades at edge."

With their current draft standing, who may be a top target?

Melo points to Riley Moss, who fits the 49ers mold with his athleticism, as the Iowa cornerback ran a 4.38 40-yard dash at the NFL combine.

"One guy that sort of strikes me as their type is Riley Moss from Iowa. This is a guy with an incredible track background. He's fast, he's got game-changing speed," Melo said. "And you don't see a lot of white cornerbacks in the NFL, but he's not one of those hard hat, lunch pail kind of guys. He's an athlete. He can run. So he sort of strikes me as someone that would be their type there in San Francisco."

Melo believes the corner should go around the third or fourth round, placing him in range for the 49ers to select the defensive back, be it if they stay pat or make a move up or down the board.

Another option could be cornerback Jakorian Bennett of Maryland, whom The Draft Network has at No. 125 on their big board for the 2023 NFL Draft.

Bennett has positional versatility and elite speed, which the 49ers covet in their secondary, and appears to fall within their range of draft selections.

"At Maryland, Bennett is utilized in multiple positions, depending on personnel groupings and formations Bennett will play CB, safety, or nickel and should be viewed much more as a defensive back prospect than just a pure cornerback prospect," writes The Draft Network's Keith Sanchez.

Other names to watch could be Louisville's Kei'Trel Clark, Alabama's Eli Ricks, Oregon State's Rezjohn Wright, and South Carolina's Darius Rush.

Regardless of who the 49ers draft, cornerback should be a position to watch in the draft, understanding their current depth and the need for competition to fill out their rotation.
The opinions within this article are those of the writer and, while just as important, are not necessarily those of the site as a whole.

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