2019 Senior Bowl: No shortage of corners who fit modern NFL prototype


2019 Senior Bowl: No shortage of corners who fit modern NFL prototype

The Senior Bowl collected a group of cornerbacks that has the physical attributes associated with the defense the 49ers have borrowed from the Seattle Seahawks.

Of course, there is one player after whom the new wave of NFL hopefuls mainly try to pattern their games.

Richard Sherman is listed at 6-foot-3, and had four All-Pro selections in his seven seasons with the Seahawks before signing last offseason with the 49ers.

“I’ve watched a lot of Richard Sherman,” Penn State cornerback Amani Oruwariye said. “He uses his body, his length to his advantage. That’s something I admire. I watch a lot of film on him. He attacks the ball, too. That’s something I’ve been doing that I want to improve on. Just going to getting the ball and being a playmaker.”

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The group of cornerbacks that assembled in Mobile, Alabama, was certainly not lacking in size. Six of the 10 cornerbacks measured at 6-foot or taller, including Isaiah Johnson (Houston) and Lonnie Johnson (Kentucky), who checked in at 6-2 ¼.

Johnson set himself apart for his willingness and ability to make the big hit. But none of the cornerbacks stood out for sticking with the collectinon of all-star pass catchers.

It is doubtful any of the cornerbacks in Mobile will be selected in the first round of the draft. Those spots projected to go to underclassmen like Greedy Williams (LSU), Deandre Baker (Georgia) and Byron Murphy (Washington).

The 49ers invested third-round picks the past two years in cornerbacks Ahkello Witherspoon and Tarvarius Moore. They could be in the market for another cornerback this year to add to the depth and competition. The 49ers coached the South squad, which featured 6 foot-plus corners Isaiah Johnson, Lonnie Johnson and Sheldrick Redwin (6-foot 3/8) of Miami.

[RELATED: Edge-rushing prospect has high praise for 49ers coaches]

The evaluation process for the taller corners in Mobile consisted mostly of determining whether the size of those players restricted their agility to cover to receivers when contact is allowed only within the first 5 yards of the line of scrimmage.

“My agility was good, and it’s gotten a lot better,” said Oruwariye, generally regarded as the top cornerback prospect in Mobile. “I have to use my length and my size to my advantage, especially in this league with the 5-yard radius you have. You got to use it.”

Jordan Brown of South Dakota State began his college career as a wide receiver. But at 6-foot ¾, he transitioned to cornerback because his body type fit the mold.

“I knew I had the height to play corner and I was a prototype coming up in this day and age in the NFL,” said Brown, who has also studied Sherman’s game to incorporate into his own.

“He’s definitely an instinctive player. Growing up, even when I wasn’t playing cornerback, I watched him. He’s very smart, an intellectual corner and makes plays on the ball.”

NFL draft prospect Josh Allen has visits scheduled with 49ers, Raiders


NFL draft prospect Josh Allen has visits scheduled with 49ers, Raiders

LEXINGTON, Ky. – Kentucky outside linebacker Josh Allen will get familiar with the Bay Area during the NFL's pre-draft process.

Allen, the national defensive player of the year after recording 17 sacks as a senior, told NBC Sports Bay Area on Friday he has visits scheduled to meet with the 49ers and Raiders. He will also visit the New York Giants, New York Jets and Detroit Lions prior to the April 25 draft, he said.

Allen should not have to wait too long to hear his name called on draft day. Both the 49ers, at No. 2 overall, and the Raiders, at No. 4, are possibilities to select him. Area scout Steve Rubio represented the 49ers at Kentucky's pro day.

On Thursday, Allen had dinner with the Raiders, including general manager Mike Mayock and senior defensive assistant Jim O'Neil.

“It was good, just a casual meeting. We basically talked about life. He’s awesome, a cool person," Allen said of Mayock. "He's a football person and a business person. It was fun."

Matt Maiocco

O’Neil, who works with defensive backs, had plenty of players to scout on Friday. Kentucky has five defensive backs who might end up getting drafted.

Cornerback Lonnie Johnson and safety Mike Edwards could be Day 2 picks. Cornerback Derrick Baity Jr. and safety Darius West were also invited to the NFL Scouting Combine and could be Day 3 selections.

Another Kentucky defensive back, cornerback Chris Westry, had an impressive showing with a 40-yard dash time clocked in the 4:31-4.33 range. Westry, who stands 6 foot 4 ½, also had a vertical jump of 38 inches.

“Westry was the only DB not invited to the combine and he lights it up here today,” Kentucky coach Mark Stoops said. “That was really good for him. The other guys did a great job at the combine. He’ll have time to make that up with his measurables, how tall he is and how he runs. He’ll have plenty of time to make that ground up.”

Allen did not work out on Friday, opting to stand on the marks he recorded last month in Indianapolis. Allen was measured on Friday in the Kentucky weight room before the on-field workouts. His hand measured at 8 ¾ inches, while his arm is 32 7/8 inches with a wingspan of 81 ¾ inches.

Allen was a consensus All-American and the SEC Defensive Player of the Year. He did not miss a game in his four-year college career.

[RELATED: Why Allen couldn't lie to Ronnie Lott meeting 49ers]

“Any time you’re looking at that high of a pick, people are looking at something to pick on. They’re going to see if there are any flaws,” Stoops said. “And I think you can ask anybody in this community, anybody in this organization and anybody in town that’s been around Josh, he’s the same. It's important to him.

“He’s a great player. If you like what you see on the football field, you’re going to love what you see in the locker room and what kind of person he is.”

John Lynch explains why 49ers didn't chase Earl Thomas, Landon Collins

John Lynch explains why 49ers didn't chase Earl Thomas, Landon Collins

49ers general manager John Lynch feels comfortable with the team’s group of safeties, which is why they didn’t sign big-name free agents such as Earl Thomas or Landon Collins. 

"We feel good about our free safety depth," Lynch said on the team’s website. "We feel we're pretty well stocked there."

Lynch did clarify, saying that his statement doesn’t mean they will avoid looking closely at the deep class of safeties heading into the draft. Quite the opposite, as he reports that his staff always does their due diligence on players that can make the team better. 

“It’s not to say,” Lynch said, “if an opportunity presents itself, that we won’t go there, but we feel pretty good at our free safety spot.” 

One of the players that Lynch and the 49ers staff has always been complimentary of is Jimmie Ward. During free agency, Ward signed a one year $4.5 million contract to remain with the team for a sixth season. $1.5 million of his contract is in per-game roster bonuses, which means he must be healthy enough to play to receive the payout. 

"It was big for us to bring back Jimmie Ward,” Lynch said. “I know that's a hot-button item because he hasn't been able to stay healthy. We aren't blind to that. We understand that. 

“There's a lot to like about Jimmie Ward, though, in what he brings. Are we taking a gamble? Yes, but that's accounted for in our contract with him. Jimmie wanted to be here, and we wanted to give him that opportunity to come back."

Another player that Lynch spoke highly of was Adrian Colbert, who he said had a great rookie season. Colbert was forced to play due to injuries in 2017, but had a challenging start to his sophomore year. Lynch believed he was improving prior to his season-ending ankle injury. 

“We thought he was starting to play like the guy we saw his rookie season,” Lynch said, “that we really thought was going to be our long term answer at free safety.” 

Lynch also mentioned Jaquiski Tartt and Antone Exum as players he was happy to have back. He was especially complimentary of 2018 fifth-round draft pick D.J. Reed. 

As a rookie, Reed played in multiple positions, which is challenging even for a veteran. His versatility is something that Lynch sees as very valuable. Reed not only can play both safety positions, but he also can play outside corner or the slot position. 

[RELATED: Josh Allen scheduled to meet with 49ers]

Reed is also a productive kick and punt returner, averaging 30.2 yards per return in his first season in the NFL. 

The 49ers decided to add depth to other defensive positions in free agency by signing Dee Ford and Kwon Alexander, but they will likely add competition at safety in the draft.