Safeties Ward, Tartt appear to fit within 49ers' scheme

Safeties Ward, Tartt appear to fit within 49ers' scheme

The 49ers have spent the past four weeks evaluating the roster general manager John Lynch and coach Kyle Shanahan inherited.

Lynch, a nine-time Pro Bowl safety and Hall of Fame finalist, not surprisingly has spent a lot of time looking at the players the 49ers have at the position he played.

In the new Seattle-based defensive scheme under new coordinator Robert Saleh, the 49ers will play a lot of single-high safety. They are looking for someone who can track the ball and make plays in center field.

Lynch said the 49ers will certainly consider moving Jimmie Ward back to the deep middle after he started 10 games last season at right cornerback. He missed four starts with a quad injury and was placed on injured reserve with a shoulder injury.

“Just being completely honest, we think he’s a good scheme fit for what we’re doing at the free-safety position,” Lynch said at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis.

“But we don’t know that until you put him there. It’s projecting. We think his traits, his skills, translate very well to that, but it’s such an instinct position, I think you really have to give him – and we’re kind of excited – to give him an offseason to say, ‘Let’s give this a go.’”

Ward saw action exclusively as the 49ers’ nickel back in his first two seasons after the organization selected him with the No. 30 overall selection in the 2014 draft.

Lynch said the 49ers will strongly consider Ward to be primarily a safety, but he could also see action in other spots, too.

“That doesn’t preclude him from playing nickel in some situations, or moving around,” Lynch said. “I think he brings some great versatility. But that is something we’re exploring and we will explore this offseason.”

Ward played four seasons at Northern Illinois, where he was used in a variety of roles. He recorded four career interceptions (three as a junior, one as a sophomore) and broke up 10 passes .

“Frankly, I haven’t watched a lot of his college tape because I wasn’t doing this then,” Lynch said. “I will. Right now, we’ve been just studying him for what he’s done the last couple of years on the 49ers. We’re excited about what he brings to us as a player wherever he’s playing.”

The 49ers believe Jaquiski Tartt has a chance to fit well into the new scheme. Tartt (6 foot 1, 221 pounds) started 14 of the 30 games in which he appeared in his first two NFL seasons. Under the previous defensive coordinators, Eric Mangini and Jim O’Neil, the system asked the safeties to perform a wide array of functions. The new defense is designed to accentuate the strengths the safeties without asking them to do too much, which should enable Tartt to play to his strengths.

If the 49ers pattern their defense after Seattle's, Ward would play a style similar to Earl Thomas, while Tartt could potentially fill the role of Kam Chancellor.

Eric Reid, who is scheduled to play under the fifth-year option this season, has started all 57 games in which he appeared over the past four seasons since being the No. 18 overall pick in the 2013 draft.

Veteran Antoine Bethea is also currently on the 49ers’ depth chart at safety. Bethea, who turns 33 in July, is an 11-year veteran who was the 49ers’ leader with 110 tackles last season.

Tom Rathman to be inducted into 49ers Hall of Fame

Tom Rathman to be inducted into 49ers Hall of Fame

Former 49ers fullback Tom Rathman, who was not retained this season on Kyle Shanahan’s coaching staff, will be coming back to the organization in a permanent fashion.

Rathman, 54, who spent a total of 23 seasons as a player and coach, will be inducted into the 49ers Hall of Fame, CEO Jed York announced on Tuesday.

“Tom Rathman embodies everything this organization wants in its players, coaches and staff,” York said in a statement. “Throughout his more than two decades with our team, Tom set a tone for the 49ers both on and off the field. As a player, he was selfless, hard-working and dedicated to bringing his best every single day. Tom coached very much the same way.

"It was his mission to help every man he coached realize his full potential, as both a player and a man. Tom is family and we are so thrilled to induct him into the Edward J. DeBartolo Sr. 49ers Hall of Fame, where he will take his place among the all-time greats in our team’s history.”

Rathman discussed having a role on the 49ers’ coaching staff after the hiring of Shanahan. But Shanahan had already promised the position of running backs coach to Bobby Turner.

“It was all positive,” said Rathman told NBC Sports Bay Area in February. “I have no hard feelings. It’s just the nature of the business. Everybody just has to understand that. In pro football, coaches get fired and new guys come in and they bring their guys. I totally understand it. I don’t have a problem with it. Being in the business for 28 years, playing and coaching, you understand what it is. You can never take anything for granted.”

Rathman played for the 49ers from 1986 to ’93. He was a starter on two Super Bowl-winning teams and seven NFC West champions. Used mostly as a lead-blocker for Roger Craig, Rathman’s best season came in 1989, when he caught 73 passes for 616 yards.

After his playing career concluded with the Los Angeles Rams in 1994, Rathman entered into a career in coaching. He coached under Steve Mariucci from 1997 to 2002. He returned to coach with the 49ers in 2009, serving on the coaching staffs of head coaches Mike Singletary, Jim Harbaugh, Jim Tomsula and Chip Kelly.

“I’ve always considered myself a 49er and I always will consider myself a 49er," Rathman said in a statement. "I’ll take that brand with me wherever I go because that’s who I am. It feels great to be with the guys who are already in the 49ers Hall of Fame. Dating back to Joe Perry, it’s an honor to be associated with the likes of Joe Montana, Jerry Rice, Ronnie Lott, Roger Craig and Dwight Clark.

"That’s a lot of history right there. To be able to say that you’re in a fraternity with those guys so to speak, the 49ers Hall of Fame fraternity, says volumes. It’s pretty special.”

49ers draft board consists of nearly 200 prospects

49ers draft board consists of nearly 200 prospects

The 49ers new draft grading system is inspired by the New England Patriots, but their draft menu consists of a lot more options.

“We’ve got just under 200 players on our draft board, that we see as draftable players on our board,” 49ers general manager John Lynch told reporters Monday at team headquarters in Santa Clara.

“I’ve been spending a lot of time in here and it was needed this year because I had a lot of catch-up to do. I can tell you that just (Sunday) night I finally got to the point, I always knew as a player like, ‘OK. I’m ready.’ That moment was (Sunday) for me where I said, ‘OK. I’m ready. I’m ready to go on this thing.’ That’s a good feeling.”

The 49ers have 10 draft picks scheduled for the three-day draft, including the No. 2 overall selection. With 73 players under contract, the 49ers figure to add approximately 17 rookies through the draft and as free agents. The NFL's seven-round draft will result in 253 players being selected.

Lynch was hired out of the FOX broadcast booth a week before the Super Bowl. The following week, Lynch assembled all of the team’s scouts for meetings in Santa Clara.

“When we first brought scouts in right after the Super Bowl we were kind of working off the old grading system,” Lynch said. “But what helped was the grading system that they use in Denver, which kind of derived from one that was developed in New England.”

One of Lynch’s first hires was former Broncos college scouting director Adam Peters as 49ers vice president of player personnel. New coach Kyle Shanahan was also familiar with the system because, like Peters, Atlanta Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff worked in the Patriots’ scouting department.

“In these last three weeks of draft meetings we moved over to that grading scale,” Lynch said.

“I’ve always been someone who thinks you should listen to multiple opinions and we’ve been very collaborative. I believe in strong opinions. Someone once told me, ‘Strong opinions, weakly held.’ So are you open to different thoughts and someone makes you think? But ultimately someone’s got to make decisions.”

Patriots director of player personnel Nick Caserio recently told Boston-area reporters that New England's draft board consists of only 50 to 75 players who fit as draft picks for their team. The Patriots have seven scheduled draft picks but none in the first two rounds.

"I would say it varies year to year, but I would say our draft board is smaller than most," Caserio said. "We are trying to find players that we feel comfortable with on all levels that we would actually draft -- not that are going to get drafted.

"It's players that we would draft, that we would actually feel comfortable with in our program in some capacity."

49ERS 2017 DRAFT PICKS
1. First round: No. 2 overall
2. Second round: No. 34 overall
3. Third round: No. 66 overall
4. Fourth round: No. 109 overall
5. Fourth round: No. 143 overall (compensatory)
6. Fifth round: No. 146 overall
7. Fifth round: No. 161 (pick acquired from Washington in 2015 trade for TE Derek Carrier)
8. Sixth round: No. 198 overall (from Baltimore in trade with C Jeremy Zuttah for No. 186)
9. Sixth round: No. 202 overall (pick acquired from Denver in 2015 trade for TE Vernon Davis)
10. Seventh round: No. 219 overall (pick acquired from Cleveland in 2015 trade for Andy Lee)