The 49ers’ long string of offseason moves began with a single, under-the-radar transaction: On Feb. 22, they signed cornerback K’Waun Williams.

Over the next 99 days, the 49ers have added 49 more new players to their roster, meaning Williams has largely been forgotten. However, the former undrafted free agent who didn’t play in the NFL last year could become a familiar name this fall.

Williams, 25, who has a longstanding relationship with secondary coach Jeff Hafley, is the leading candidate to assume the nickel cornerback spot previously manned by Jimmie Ward. There is a vacancy because the 49ers have moved Ward to free safety. Williams has been taking first-string snaps at the position in offseason practices.

“I’ve always thought the world of him,” Hafley said. “And I know he can play.”

Hafley, then at the University of Pittsburgh, recruited Williams and was his position coach when he was a freshman in 2010. They reconnected during Williams’ first two seasons in the NFL with the Browns from 2014-15. Williams was Cleveland’s nickel corner, but he missed the 2016 season due to an ankle injury that required surgery.

“At the time, I thought he was one of the better nickel backs in the NFL and I’m really, really excited to have him,” said Hafley, who joined the 49ers last year. “Just a great person. Works hard. Does the right things … He’s kind of a kid that’s battled his way through and always comes out on top.”

Williams figures to battle Will Redmond in training camp. Redmond, the No. 68 overall pick in 2016, didn’t play last year because of a torn ACL he sustained in college.

“He’s starting to become healthy,” Hafley said of Redmond. “He’s still getting back and playing football every day. I think he’s got some work to do, but I’m excited to see what he can progress to.”

Family affair: Head coach Kyle Shanahan’s dad, Mike, attended practice and spent most of his time observing the session with general manager John Lynch.

Lynch played for Shanahan with the Broncos from 2004-07. Shanahan spent 18 seasons as the head coach at Denver (1995-2008) and Washington (2010-13), where Kyle was his offensive coordinator.

In February, the younger Shanahan, a rookie head coach, said his dad wouldn’t have a role with the 49ers.

“If he comes to visit me, maybe he could come (to the facility), but (I’m) probably going to make him babysit my kids, so my wife and I can go out,” Shanahan said, laughing. “My dad will be a sounding board for me my whole life, just like most people’s dads are. It’s a benefit for me that my dad and I are in the same profession, so I do talk to him about work more than most kids. My dad and I are close, but it’s never a working thing.”

Painful season: Linebacker Eli Harold played the final nine games last year with a torn ligament in a big toe that required surgery in late January. Harold said he received a painful shot — “the long-needle nerve block” – in his toe before each game.

“Oh, man,” Harold said when asked about the shots. “Your feet are very delicate.”

Harold said he’s had pain in his toe dating to high school and it began because he wore too-small shoes as a child.

Briefly: Tight end Vance McDonald did not attend practice because of a personal matter. … Wide receiver Bruce Ellington and center Jeremy Zuttah sat out with minor injuries.

Eric Branch is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. Email: Twitter: @Eric_Branch

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