The San Francisco 49ers didn't draft a cornerback in 2015, but that doesn't mean they don't have any young talent at the position.
The franchise selected three perimeter defenders in last year's draft in rounds four through seven: Dontae Johnson, Keith Reaser and Kenneth Acker. The latter two late-round selections have been quite noticeable in the first few weeks of the team's Organized Team Activites.
Reaser and Acker, fifth- and sixth-round selections, respectively, have been constantly around the football. The two young cornerbacks are also earning valuable experience in what figures to be a competitive cornerback battle in training camp.
Reaser missed all of 2014 after he suffered a torn ACL at Florida Atlantic. Acker, meanwhile, was sidelined by a foot injury that took place prior to the team's final roster cuts in training camp.
The injuries appear to be a thing of the past, according to coach Jim Tomsula.
"They are moving along pretty good, aren't they? You saw it today," the head coach said after the second week of OTA workouts.
Tomsula said he sees many changes with the two cornerbacks.
"I can tell that their bodies are different," the coach said. "It's not new to them. The whole approach, the nerves that you see with a young guy coming in, there's none of that. So absolutely you can tell."
Reaser and Acker have not played in a regular season game, so they're rookies to that, but the cornerbacks said they grew tremendously from a year's worth of exposure to professional football.
"I don't feel like a rookie because I've been here, but you're kind of a rookie because you haven't played," said Reaser, who was the team's 170th overall selection two years ago. "I would say last year gave me a half of a year instead of a full year."
Acker, who stands 6-feet tall like Reaser, agreed that he's not approaching the offseason with nerves.
"The only thing we didn't do last year was touch the field," said Acker, the 180th overall selection out of Southern Methodist in 2014. "I just took it as a learning experience more than anything."
The cornerbacks bonded over their common situation. Prior to coming to the 49ers, each cornerback was a starter for their respective college team. Reaser made 32 starts for FAU; Acker started in 38 games for SMU.
"Last year I didn't feel like I was by myself," said Reaser, who is the cousin of the late Washington Redskins safety Sean Taylor. "We were both in the same situation, in the same struggle, motivating each other each day."
Reaser's injury was more severe. It required added offseason rehabilitation work. While Acker was able to participate in OTAs last year, Reaser had to do his learning in the film room. The FAU product suffered his major knee injury prior to the draft. Even so, he still led all cornerbacks with 22 reps of the 225-bench press at the 2014 NFL Scouting Combine.
Speed is also a big component to Reaser's on-field talent. He was once clocked running a 40-yard dash time in the 4.3-second range.
Reaser said he hasn't run a 40 recently, but he did feel like his burst is back to where it was prior to the injury.
"Physically, I feel great," Reaser said. "I've just got to work on working off some rust, but I feel good."
Reaser recorded five interceptions and 14 pass breakups in his college career. He was also counted on to play as a perimeter and slot defender. The young cornerback has continued to line up at multiple positions in his first on-field experience with the 49ers.
"I've been playing outside and inside as well," Reaser said. "I guess they're trying to find the best fit for me. Maybe if somebody goes down at either spot, I can fill in."
Acker, meanwhile, has been lining up solely as a perimeter cornerback. In that role, Acker was able to record an interception in the second week of OTAs; Reaser dropped his opportunity to come up with a takeaway on an errant pass in a 7-on-7 drill.
Acker recorded seven interceptions and 29 pass breakups in college. He, like Reaser, said his confidence has been boosted from his time in San Francisco's facilities.
"The NFL is (about) getting comfortable with yourself as a player and getting comfortable with yourself as a person," said Acker, who feels like he's able to to carry himself like s an NFL player. "I don't have to worry about field noise, or what it's like going to a different NFL stadium. I think the 49ers do a great job with that, with bringing everybody with us. We didn't really feel left out. We knew our time would come, and now it's here. We're both trying to get back into it."
Reaser said all of the cornerbacks feel like they have a chance in the team's position battle.
"I think it's a wide-open competition out there," he said. "I think some of the veterans have a jump on us out there, but I think it's going to be a good competition in camp."