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49ers Decisions on Whitner, Brown Affect Draft

Posted Mar 7, 2014

Bleacher Report draft analyst Matt Miller outlined potential defensive back options for the 49ers in the 2014 NFL Draft.

Two of the most notable 49ers free agents happen to represent half of the starting secondary in the team’s NFC Championship game loss to the Seattle Seahawks in January.

Donte Whitner, the team’s strong safety over the last three seasons, and Tarell Brown, a trusted agent at cornerback, are slated to become free agents on March 11.

Should both players not return to San Francisco in 2014, the 49ers will have the options of using free agency or the NFL Draft to find replacements.

It’s worth noting, however, that many analysts have gone on record as saying this year’s draft class has more talent at cornerback than safety.

Count Bleacher Report draft analyst Matt Miller in that group.

“The cornerback class this year is much deeper,” Miller told 49ers.com recently.

With the 49ers recent agreement with wide receiver Anquan Boldin on a new two-year deal, draftniks like Miller might consider having San Francisco take a defensive back at pick No. 30 in future mock drafts, instead of a wide receiver. The latter seemed to be a trendy line of thinking prior to the Boldin news.

If the 49ers go the cornerback route, Miller is of the opinion that Oklahoma State cornerback Justin Gilbert and Michigan State cornerback Darqueze Dennard “should definitely be gone by 30.”

Miller, however, said that there’s a good second tier of cornerback prospects. The group includes Jason Verrett of TCU, Bradley Roby of Ohio State and Kyle Fuller of Virginia Tech.

Roby, in particular, is a name that has been paired with San Francisco in offseason mock drafts.

In Miller’s estimation, 2012 was a much better year of tape for the 5-foot-11, 194-pound cornerback.

“He was almost at a shutdown level,” Miller said of Roby.

Miller added that the Ohio State cornerback failed to capitalize on his 2012 performance.

“We saw that drop off a little bit,” the analyst said. “His concentration fell off at times. Wisconsin’s Jared Abbrederis really beat him in their matchup. But I think Roby, in the right system could be a very good player and could start right away.”

Miller said he could see Roby fitting in with the 49ers.

“Put him in a defense with Aldon Smith, Ahmad Brooks, Justin Smith and you’re getting the pressure he’d need to cover for three to four seconds instead of five to seven seconds,” the analyst said.

As for finding an impact safety, Miller said the 49ers would have to trade up in the first round, like they did with Eric Reid, to find a true difference-maker in year one.

Alabama’s Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and Louisville’s Calvin Pryor are the two safeties worth moving up for, according to Miller.

“They are both big hitters and they both have good range,” Miller said of the top-rated safeties who could play both strong and free safety in the NFL. “They could step in and play at that same high level right away.”

Miller said San Francisco has plenty of ammunition to move up and get a player they covet at safety, at cornerback or at another position.

“The 49ers would have to come up and get (Clinton-Dix or Pryor) but when you have 11 draft picks and you have a roster that has made it as far as they have the last three years, they have the flexibility to package some of those picks,” Miller said. “Maybe it’s the one they picked up from Kansas City.”

The 49ers have the No. 56 overall selection in the second round as part of last year’s Alex Smith trade. San Francisco has five picks in the top 94 overall selections and could use any one of those picks to add defensive back depth should veterans like Whitner and Brown depart in free agency.


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