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PFF mock draft has 49ers adding cornerback with ‘unique fluidity and size’

Apr 10, 2024 at 8:49 AM

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Analyst Steve Palazzolo unveiled a first-round mock draft for Pro Football Focus, attempting to forecast the selections for each NFL team within the top 32 picks. While the San Francisco 49ers concentrated on strengthening the defensive line in free agency, Palazzolo envisions the team continuing to fortify that side of the ball.

In his mock draft, Palazzolo predicts that the 49ers will select former Iowa State cornerback T.J. Tampa with the No. 31 overall pick.

"Tampa's unique fluidity and size for a cornerback make him worthy of a top-75 pick," reads the analysis from Pro Football Focus' big board. "If he can clean up his footwork, he can be a starting outside cornerback in the NFL with the potential to be an impact player."

While some may question the idea of the 49ers using their first-round selection on anything other than an offensive lineman, strengthening the defensive backfield is not beyond consideration. The team needs a starting cornerback opposite Charvarius Ward. Bringing in a capable defensive back in that position would allow Deommodore Lenoir to assume the slot position permanently.

Tampa ranks as the sixth cornerback on Pro Football Focus' big board and the No. 35 overall player. He did not participate in the NFL Scouting Combine due to recovery from a hamstring injury. However, he posted times of 4.52 and 4.55 seconds in the 40-yard dash at the Big 12 pro day.

"Physical cornerback with long arms and an above-average ability to ruin catch tries when he's in the vicinity," wrote Lance Zierlein in the player's scouting report. "Tampa has decent closing burst but appears to lack true top-end speed. He can charge up his press punch and does a nice job of staying connected to routes from trail technique."

While Palazzolo believes Tampa is deserving of a first-round selection, Zierlein views the cornerback more as a pick for the second day.

"However, he allows separation windows to open when playing from a backpedal in off-man coverage," Zierlein explained. "Tampa can handle some man matchups, but his last-second pass breakups will turn into completions against pro receivers. His demeanor, instincts and ball skills should make him a Day 2 target and eventual starter for a zone-heavy cover unit."

Tampa recorded 44 tackles, including three for a loss, seven passes defensed, and two interceptions in 12 game appearances as a senior in 2023, per Sports Reference. Throughout his four collegiate seasons, he amassed 107 tackles, including 9.5 for a loss, 19 passes defensed, three interceptions, and a forced fumble.

Dane Brugler of The Athletic, who sees Tampa as a second or third-round pick, offers this assessment of the cornerback: "Overall, Tampa gets a little sticky with his footwork at the top of routes, but he doesn't lose much separation and plays with the size, range and ball skills to be disruptive. He has the tools and potential to be a starting perimeter cornerback in various schemes."

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