Cornerbacks Trae Waynes, Marcus Peters and Byron Jones could all be targeted by the 49ers in the draft later this week. (USATSI)
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The 49ers did not re-sign their two primary starting cornerbacks of last season. The team, in anticipation of a need this season, invested heavily in the position during the 2014 draft.
“We addressed it in last year’s draft with three young guys,” 49ers general manager Trent Baalke said of the holes on the depth chart that opened with the free-agent departures of Chris Culliver and Perrish Cox.
The 49ers selected Dontae Johnson in the fourth round. Johnson started the final three games of the season and saw significant action in five other games as a rookie.
In addition, the 49ers spent a fifth-round pick on Keith Reaser, who missed the season with an ACL injury sustained in college. And their seventh-round pick, Kenneth Acker, looked good in the exhibition season before being placed on injured reserve with a stress fracture in his foot.
And Baalke did not even mention first-round draft pick Jimmie Ward, who is listed as a safety but whose main contribution is as the team’s starting nickel back.
The 49ers view Tramaine Brock and free-agent pickup Shareece Wright as the team’s starting cornerbacks heading into this season. Veteran Chris Cook rejoins the group of youngsters as insurance.
“We feel good about the depth, and we’ll see how this draft plays out whether we have the ability to pick a player or more at that position,” Baalke said.
Who’s here: Tramaine Brock, Shareece Wright, Dontae Johnson, Chris Cook, Marcus Cromartie, Leon McFadden, Kenneth Acker, Keith Reaser.
Draft needs: In a conversation late last season with CSNBayArea.com, Baalke stressed the importance of continuing to build depth and create competition at cornerback due to the physical demands at that position. Count cornerback among the positions the 49ers could address early, beginning potentially with the No. 15 overall selection.
Good fits: Jalen Collins (LSU) was a strong option at No. 15, but his recent foot surgery and the NFL Media report of his multiple failed drug tests while in college are likely to drop this stock. Trae Waynes (Michigan State) is generally considered the top cornerback prospect, but some question whether he is physical enough to fit the profile of the kind of player the 49ers want at this position. Marcus Peters (Washington) is exactly what the 49ers want on the field. However, they spent extra time with him during the draft process in hopes of getting to the bottom of his frequent clashes with his college coaches, which led to his dismissal from the team. Byron Jones (Connecticut), who also visited the 49ers, is an early-round option, too.