49ers could address safety position with promising options in NFL Draft

49ers could address safety position with promising options in NFL Draft

INDIANAPOLIS -- The 49ers need to add depth at the safety position. There are several big names hitting the free agent market like Landon Collins and Earl Thomas, but there is also a good group of prospects who attended the NFL Scouting Combine that could fill the need. 

A few of the draft hopefuls already had the chance to work with the 49ers while at the Senior Bowl. Delaware safety Nasir Adderly (6-foot-0, 206 pounds) was one of them, even though he was coached by the Raiders staff. He had a notable week of practice and performed well in the game with what he recently revealed was a significant injury.

"Unfortunately, I won't be participating in the combine events tomorrow,” Adderly said, “because a lot of you don’t really know, but I was dealing with a high ankle sprain the back end of the year. So, it happened probably Week 6, Week 7 and I've just played through it and got an MRI following the year and it was a pretty significant high ankle sprain. 

“But I knew coming from a small school, the Senior Bowl is the most important event for me. So, I wanted to go out there and I just fought through it and it kind of set me back as far as my training for these events. So, I'm getting a lot better and I'm confident I should be able to do everything on my pro day."

The 49ers had the lowest turnover ratio in the league in 2018, so acquiring a known ball-hawking safety is a priority. Virginia’s Juan Thornhill (6-0, 205) got to know the 49ers at the Senior Bowl as well. He ran a 4.42 40-yard dash, showing off his speed, while his stats reflect his coverage ability.

“I’m the type of player that likes to play with my face towards the ball instead of with my back towards the ball,” Thornhill said. “I’m a ball hawk. I had 13 career interceptions, six interceptions this year. 

“It seems like every year I get more and more interceptions. I was always taught that the ball is the most important thing. You can’t score points if you don’t have the football, so with a guy like me, you’ll definitely get the ball back to the offense and allow us to put up more points.”

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Thornhill explained how he is able to predict where the ball is going for a pick. 

“It’s like I can see things happening before they happen,” Thornhill said. “I can see where the quarterback is throwing. I just read his eyes pretty well and break before the ball is released. I think that is my biggest thing. I’m a good player at reading the quarterback.”

Chauncey Gardner-Johnson (5-11, 210), who ran a 4.48 40 at the Combine, also considers himself a ball hawk. He recorded four interceptions in his final season at Florida and nine over his three-year career. He also described his versatility. 

“It’s big because you can put me anywhere,” Gardner-Johnson said. “I’m not limited to one position. I can be in for base. I can be in for nickel. I can be in for nickel and cover down in the slot, be in the post, come off the hash, I can do anything coach puts me at, no matter where I go.”

“Knowing your assignment, knowing what your teammates are going to do, trusting yourself and trusting your teammates to help you become a ball-hawking safety.”

The 49ers also had a large number of missed tackles in 2018. It’s important that they find players who are able and willing, and Washington’s Taylor Rapp (6-0, 208) is one who thinks he can do the job. 

“That’s (some)thing I take pride in,” Rapp said. “I think I'm one of the most consistent tacklers and most reliable defensive players in this draft class. I take pride in everything I do, especially tackling. If it's a one-on-one open-field tackle, I'm gonna tackle the ballcarrier no matter what.”

Alabama’s Deionte Thompson, (6-1, 195) recorded 78 tackles and two interceptions in his final college season, but was unable to participate in drills at the Combine due to a freak accident in the weight room that tore a ligament in his wrist. 

Thompson went into the Combine projected for the first round, but his inability to participate could make him a value pick later somewhere in the second. His workout at Alabama’s pro-day could make all the difference. 

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A few other promising options are Maryland’s Darnell Savage (5-11, 198) and Mississippi State’s Johnathan Abram (5-11, 205). Savage pulled in seven interceptions over his college career and just ran a 4.36 40-yard dash. Abram worked with the 49ers at the Senior Bowl and racked up 99 tackles in his senior year, and ran a 4.45 40. 

Any way you slice it, there are promising options for the 49ers to fit their needs at safety. 

NFL Draft 2020: Chase Young motivated by former teammate Nick Bosa

NFL Draft 2020: Chase Young motivated by former teammate Nick Bosa

Nick Bosa might have been the best player in last year’s draft, but the top spot went to a quarterback to fill a need for the team with the No. 1 overall pick.

Things could very well go the same way this year, with the Cincinnati Bengals taking quarterback Joe Burrow with the first selection.

That would leave the consensus top player, Chase Young, for Washington at No. 2.

Again, that player is a defensive end. Again, that player is a defensive end from Ohio State.

“Nick, he's always setting the standard,” Young said at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis. “That's just motivation for me to achieve a lot of real good things.

“It's definitely been a blessing to watch him grow into the player that he is. He's definitely helped me along this passage. He hasn't stopped. I'm just grateful to be able to see him grow.”

The 49ers selected Bosa with the No. 2 overall pick last year after the Arizona Cardinals went with quarterback Kyler Murray at No. 1.

Bosa registered nine sacks during the regular season and four more in the postseason. He was the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year. He and Young also have been in contact as Young goes through the same process Bosa experienced a year ago.

“He just told me to be myself,” Young said. “That's what I have been trying to do the whole time I've been here.”

Young, like Bosa, declared for the NFL Draft following his junior season. He enters the draft after compiling a more impressive college career than Bosa, who was hampered by injuries throughout his time at Ohio State.

In 34 college games, Young registered 30.5 sacks and 40.5 tackles for loss. Last season, he had 16.5 sacks, all of which came in the first nine games of the season. In 29 games at Ohio State, Bosa had 17.5 sacks and 29 tackles for loss.

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Bosa’s brother, Joey, went to Ohio State, where he was coached by defensive line coach Larry Johnson. Nick Bosa did not have much of a decision where to attend college because the family was already sold on Johnson’s ability to groom defensive linemen.

“I think the technique that ‘Coach J’ teaches in college works in the NFL as well,” Young said. “I'll continue to perfect my technique. The toolbox that I have now, I know that it'll bring me success in the NFL. That's one thing that I took from Nick and Joey.”

Henry Ruggs, who ran 4.27 40-yard dash, met with 49ers during combine

Henry Ruggs, who ran 4.27 40-yard dash, met with 49ers during combine

The 49ers saw firsthand how a blazing-fast receiver like Tyreek Hill of the Kansas City Chiefs can change a game when Hill's deep catch on third-and-15 swung the momentum in Super Bowl LIV. Henry Ruggs, believe it or not, might be even faster. 

As San Francisco looks to upgrade its receivers for coach Kyle Shanahan's motion-heavy offense, a speedster like Ruggs could be a game-changer. The Alabama receiver said Thursday that he has met with the 49ers at the NFL Scouting Combine. 

Ruggs put on an absolute show Thursday at the combine. After measuring in at 5-foot-11 and 188 pounds, Ruggs ran a ridiculous 4.27 40-yard dash. That is the fastest among receivers this year, and the best time thus far at the combine. His time also is tied with current 49ers receiver Marquise Goodwin, who could be on his way out of San Francisco, as the fourth-fastest at the combine since 2006.

That was just the start of Ruggs' big day, too. He also recorded a 42-inch vertical leap and had a 10'11" broad jump. His athleticism simply is off the charts. 

Ruggs joins a growing list of receivers the 49ers have met with at the combine. But it seems highly unlikely he will be available for the NFC champions. The 49ers own the No. 31 pick in the draft this year, and a handful of teams ahead of them make sense as a landing spot for Ruggs. 

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Before the combine, Ruggs was selected No. 18 overall by the Miami Dolphins in our latest mock draft. It would be a big surprise to see him fall past the New Orleans Saints at No. 24 overall.

It's clear the 49ers are doing their due diligence on a loaded receiver class and could be eyeing a future star at the end of the first round. Adding Ruggs would be gold to Shanahan's offense.