Culliver's troubles make cornerback a greater need

Culliver's troubles make cornerback a greater need
April 9, 2014, 9:45 am
Share This Post

Chris Culliver missed the entire 2013 season due to a torn ACL. (AP)

After cutting Carlos Rogers and seeing Tarell Brown sign a one-year deal with the Raiders, the 49ers planned to engage into extension talks with cornerback Chris Culliver this offseason.

But how much can the 49ers rely on Culliver to be a major part of their future? That’s a question the 49ers must be asking themselves after his arrest two weeks ago for felony hit-and-run and four other charges he faces.

Cornerback was always going to be a draft need for the 49ers. Now, there’s little question that it’s atop their list of necessities. (That does not mean their first pick will – without question – be a cornerback, but it’s obvious the 49ers must devote at least one high pick to the position.)

TCU cornerback Jason Verrett fits the profile of a player the 49ers could target, as suggested here recently. One NFL scout told that Verrett probably will not be around when the 49ers select at No. 30 – despite his lack of ideal size at 5 foot 9 ½.

Another player who figures to gain a lot of consideration from the 49ers is Virginia Tech cornerback Kyle Fuller, who is two inches taller than Verrett and should be able to replace Rogers with his ability to play inside and outside.

“I feel comfortable playing in the nickel, playing outside,” Fuller said at the NFL Scouting Combine. “I just want to be versatile.

“I moved around in our defensive backfield. I played field, I played boundary. That just shows how versatile I am. . . I definitely consider myself a physical player.”

NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock recently moved Fuller into the slot as his second-ranked cornerback, supplanting Oklahoma State’s Justin Gilbert, behind Darqueze Dennard of Michigan State. Bradley Roby of Ohio State and Verrett are Nos. 4 and 5 on Mayock’s list.

Coach Jim Harbaugh got an up-close look at Fuller at Virginia Tech’s pro day on March 19. Of course, most associated Harbaugh’s appearance at the pro day with quarterback Logan Thomas.

In 2011, folks connected the dots with Harbaugh attending Missouri’s pro day with interest in quarterback Blaine Gabbert. The 49ers ended up selecting another Missouri player, pass-rusher Aldon Smith, with their first pick in the draft.