49ers Twitter Mailbag: Looking at pieces to add this offseason
By Insidethe49|Published On: January 16th, 2018 at 7:27 PM|
The 49ers aren’t spending January looking for a new coach for the first time four years, giving us time to catch our breath after the Jimmy Garoppolo experience and take inventory of what needs to happen for Kyle Shanahan to bring his team back to playoff contention next season.
We’ll have plenty of time to take deep dives into free agency and the upcoming NFL draft. For now, we’ll take your questions via Twitter for another edition of our Tuesday mailbag.
To your questions!
Denzel Ward or Joshua Jackson? Who’s a better fit for the niners?
This could end up becoming the most important question when it comes to the 49ers’ first pick in April. Corner is among the team’s most important needs, and there’s a good chance it gets addressed both in the draft and free agency.
I think Jackson and Ward will be very good pros – and there’s no clear answer as to which player fits in the system better. So I’ll try to answer by explaining what I know about the 49ers’ scheme and how they approach the position.
Last year, the team was very high on Ohio State’s Marshon Lattimore, who was widely considered the top cornerback available given his ability to play in any scheme matched with his supreme athleticism.
But Lattimore had nagging hamstring injuries throughout his college career that scared some teams away, including the 49ers, who went with a safe pick in Solomon Thomas. If Lattimore had a clean bill of health throughout his college career, I believe San Francisco would have selected him.
But he fell to pick No. 11 before becoming one of the best corners in football with the Saints. He missed three games because of an ankle injury, but will still be the odds-on favorite for defensive rookie of the year. He’s really good.
With Ward (5-10, 191), there are similar traits. Both are super physical and gifted athletically. Lattimore might be a touch bigger. He’s two inches taller but they weigh the same. However, Ward’s length is as an asset that allows him to play bigger than his size. And he could fit San Francisco’s scheme because of his ability to jam at the line of scrimmage and utilize his elite closing speed.
The 49ers’ system calls for corners to have safety-like traits to play deep zones in Cover 3. Ward could do that and use his speed and length to cover the ground needed. He’s also good at mirroring receivers (i.e. playing man-to-man, as Lattimore is). If the 49ers want to vary their defensive approach, then they might be inclined to find corners who also excel in man-to-man techniques.
Jackson is a little taller (6-foot-1) and probably won’t test as well as Ward. But Jackson has great ball skills, evident by his eight interceptions last year to lead the FBS.
From a pure talent standpoint, I think Ward is the better player, even if he’s a touch smaller than Jackson. From a value standpoint? The 49ers might be able to trade back and still land Jackson. So if they can move down, get additional assets and get Jackson, they’d be in good shape.
If not, I think Ward would be a very good pick and would probably start right away. He might end up being one of the fastest players at the combine next month.
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