These top prospects in the 2015 NFL Draft have been connected to the San Francisco 49ers in recent mock drafts.
Due to the departures of Perrish Cox and Chris Culliver in free agency, four of the 10 experts polled in our latest Mock Draft Tracker predicted that the San Francisco 49ers will take a cornerback with the 15th overall selection in this year's draft.
One of the popular names linked to the team is Michigan State cornerback Trae Waynes.
Ranked by NFL.com as the top prospect at his position, Waynes shined at the NFL Scouting Combine last month in Indianapolis, posting a 38-inch vertical jump and the fastest 40-yard dash time (4.31 seconds) of any defensive back.
Then, at his pro day on March 18, Waynes improved both his shuttle times after he had cramped up in Indianapolis during the drills. The second time around, Waynes posted a 4.19-second 20-yard shuttle and an 11.24-second 60-yard shuttle. The 20-yard time would have ranked seventh at the combine, while the 60-yard time would have been third.
At 6-feet, 186 pounds, Waynes' combination of nifty footwork and speed has experts comparing him to Jets cornerback Antonio Cromartie.
"Waynes exhibits outstanding qualities as a bump-and-run corner," NFL Network analyst and former scout Bucky Brooks wrote in a recent scouting report. "He is aggressive and tenacious at the line of scrimmage, yet he also plays with discipline and patience throughout the route.
"Waynes consistently maintains ideal leverage on receivers up the field, and he uses his superb body positioning to force quarterbacks to fit the ball into tight windows."
Waynes is following in the footsteps of Cincinnati Bengals cornerback Darqueze Dennard, who was taken 24th overall out of Michigan State last year and who Waynes calls his "big brother."
Taking over for Dennard last fall in East Lansing, Waynes recorded 46 tackles, eight pass breakups and three interceptions to earn first-team All-Big Ten honors.
"I pride myself on being a technician," Waynes said at the combine. "I try to work on my footwork as much as I can. I try to mirror the routes to throw off timing, and I work on these things for countless hours during practice."
After selecting Jimmie Ward last April, would the 49ers take a defense back with their top pick for a second consecutive year? That remains to be seen.
As the roster stands now, Tramaine Brock, Shareece Wright, Chris Cook and Dontae Johnson are expected to compete for the two starting cornerback jobs – Ward is the team's nickel corner. The team also drafted two other cornerbacks in the late rounds of 2014 (Keith Reaser and Kenneth Acker), but neither played their rookies years due to injury.
For more on the Michigan State product, enjoy these recent social media posts on Waynes.