Jeff Hafley Provides Spark Notes on 49ers Rookie Defensive Backs

Nobody is more eager to see the San Francisco 49ers rookies in action than defensive backs coach Jeff Hafley. The 49ers used three of their nine draft picks on players to bolster San Francisco’s secondary. The team followed up with the signing of a notable undrafted free agent.

In a recent visit on the 49ers Studios Podcast, Hafley shared a brief description of all four prospects and a look at how they fit into Robert Saleh’s defense.

Tarvarius Moore, DB, Southern Miss (Round 3, 95th overall)

Despite playing most of his college career at safety, the 49ers plan to move Moore to cornerback. Hafley explained that Moore has rare traits that could translate into him excelling at corner. 

“He’s got size, length, speed, toughness and ball skills,” Hafley said. “His vision is fantastic. We liked the film before we saw the 4.32 (40-yard dash). When I found out he ran a 4.32, I threw my phone across the room because I knew everyone else was going to start to see him. I think other teams had missed him until that point. He’s talented and his best football is ahead of him.”

D.J. Reed, DB, Kansas State (Round 5, 142nd overall)

Reed will be moved around more than Moore. His skill set projects him to be a nickel corner, but he will also spend time at free safety.

“He’s tough,” Hafley said. “He’s got speed. He’s got ball skills. He can accelerate. He’s a fun player to watch. You’ve got to be careful calling him small because he’s got long arms and he’s got huge hands. The guy can return punts, too. He’s a really good football player. We’re trying to bring that speed, toughness and confidence to our DB room. He’s got the makeup that we want.”

Marcell Harris, S, Florida (Round 6, 184th overall)

Harris missed all of 2017 with an Achilles tear. That obviously killed his draft stock, but the 49ers still believe in the 6-foot-1 safety getting back to form.

“We want strong safeties that are enforcers,” Hafley said. “When you turn on his tape, that’s what you see. He wants to run full speed through people. That’s the attitude that we want that position to play with. He’s got closing speed. He’s fearless. I’m very excited to see him come back from his injury and see him compete at the strong safety position.”

Tarvarus McFadden, CB, Florida State (UDFA)

McFadden had a monster 2016 season for the Seminoles with eight picks before a disappointing year in 2017. 

That, coupled with an underwhelming 4.67-second 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine probably weighed heavily in McFadden going undrafted. Still, he’s got an ideal build to play corner in Saleh’s system at 6-foot-2 with 32.5-inch arms.

“I’m not sure why he wasn’t drafted, but what I do know about him is this… He had eight interceptions (in 2016), and he showed some incredible ball skills,” Hafley said. “He competed. He has the size. He has the length. He’s a good scheme fit for us. I watched all the film from two years ago. We had him up for a visit. I studied his film hard this year. When he was a free agent, I knew we had to get him.”

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