49ers

49ers DBs coach is staunch supporter of Jimmie Ward

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USATSI

49ers DBs coach is staunch supporter of Jimmie Ward

Jimmie Ward, the 49ers’ first-round draft pick of 2014 and highest-paid defensive player this season, has sat out 32 games in four years due to injuries and has never started more than 10 games in a season.

But defensive backs coach Jeff Hafley wishes 49ers fans who are exasperated with Ward could see what he sees.

“I couldn’t disagree more with anybody who has any negativity about Jimmie,” Hafley said on the 49ers Insider Podcast. “If you ever had a chance to meet him, I think you’d see that. If you ever had a chance to coach him or see how hard he practices and how hard he plays and how he puts his body on the line and gives you everything he has, I think you’d immediately respect him.”

Ward was placed on injured reserve his rookie season with a foot fracture. After playing all 16 games in 2015, his season ended prematurely in ’16 with a fractured shoulder blade. Last season, he missed training camp with a hamstring injury, then appeared in just seven games before sustaining a broken forearm.

“He’s been injured, and you can be frustrated because he’s been injured,” Hafley said. “I mean, I’m sure he’s frustrated that he’s injured. But you have to respect him because of how hard he’s worked and what he does every time he steps out on the field.

“So, now, he has to take care of his body and hopefully things will bounce the right way for him and he’ll have a complete season. And when that does happen, I think what you’re going to see is everybody’s going to be wearing No. 20 jerseys at that point.”

Ward wore No. 25 in his first four NFL seasons before giving up that number to veteran Richard Sherman, who signed with the 49ers in March after spending seven seasons with the Seattle Seahawks.

Ward started last season at free safety after starting 10 games in 2016 at cornerback. He also has served as the team’s top nickel back during his time with the 49ers. This offseason, Ward was back at cornerback while Sherman rehabbed from Achilles surgery. Ward is guaranteed his $8.526 million salary this season, as the 49ers last year picked up his fifth-year option. But where Ward plays -- where he is needed -- might not be determined for another two months.

“I think it was necessary to put him at corner right now because it’s the position he has not played for the longest period of time and we wanted to see what he could do,” Hafley said. “And he has shown that he looks like a starting NFL corner.

“Now, all that being said, you know he can be a starting NFL nickel. We’ve seen it; he’s proved it. And we know he can be a starting NFL free safety. . . I think it’s going to play out in training camp. I really do.”

NFL draft: Five players 49ers can target as Day 2 options on offense, defense

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AP

NFL draft: Five players 49ers can target as Day 2 options on offense, defense

The national TV audience will begin to evaporate and the names called will not be as familiar, but Friday will be every bit as important as Day 1 of the 2019 NFL Draft.

“Everybody talks about the first round, but this draft is all about the second, third and fourth rounds,” an NFL West Coast scout told NBC Sports Bay Area.

The depth of this year’s draft makes every team’s selections on Day 2 potentially just as important and impactful as those chosen in the first round.

The 49ers own four picks within the top 104 selections. General manager John Lynch is set to pick at No. 2. After that, the 49ers have scheduled selections at Nos. 36 (second round), 67 (third round) and 104 (fourth round).

Here are some options for the 49ers on Day 2 of the NFL draft:

WR Deebo Samuel, South Carolina

There is something about Samuel’s movements, patience and ability to separate quickly versus man coverage that would seem to be attractive for coach Kyle Shanahan. The 49ers struggled mightily in the red zone the past two seasons, and Samuel would give the team a boost in that area.

After the 49ers spent a week with him at the Senior Bowl, Samuel was provided a plane ticket to also meet with the 49ers in Santa Clara. New receivers coach Wes Welker had not joined the staff when the club was in Mobile, so Welker was able to spend some quality time with Samuel in the Bay Area.

The 49ers’ pick at No. 36 would be a logical spot at which to target Samuel.

WR Hakeem Butler, Iowa State

Butler is massive. He is 6-5, 227 pounds. He is a wide receiver. And the first reaction is that he looks like a formidable red zone target. But Shanahan has never liked the randomness and low-percentage nature of the fade route or jump ball near the end zone.

The question with Butler is much the same as the question with N’Keal Harry of Arizona State. Can he regularly and routinely find separation against bigger, faster, stronger, more-skilled NFL cornerbacks?

Butler should be among a group of wide receivers that fly off the board in rapid-fire succession on the second day of the draft.

S Chauncey Gardner-Johnson, Florida

Different teams might view him in different ways. And for the 49ers, that kind of versatility is certainly not a bad thing.

He is 5-11, 210 pounds and ran a 4.48 at the NFL Scouting Combine. He had three sacks and nine tackles for loss last season, which points to his ability to play close to the line of scrimmage. He also led the Gators with four interceptions, so he could also be viewed as a single-high safety.

When the 49ers choose in the second round, there should be plenty of starter-caliber safeties from which to choose.

S Juan Thornhill, Virginia

Thornhill (6-0, 205) is another in the cluster of safeties who should be available at No. 36 but not when the 49ers select in the third round. It’s a group that includes Gardner-Johnson, Darnell Savage (Maryland), Nasir Adderley (Delaware) and Taylor Rapp (Washington).

The 49ers are coming off a season in which they set the NFL record for fewest interceptions in a season with two. Thornhill has experience at cornerback and showed those coverage skills when he moved to safety. He recorded 13 interceptions in his final three college seasons.

The 49ers might even be tempted to move him to cornerback, like they did a year ago with third-round draft pick Tarvarius Moore.

CB Lonnie Johnson, Kentucky

He might not be able to win a starting job immediately, but he should be a big special-teams performer from Day 1 and work into a significant role on defense. At 6-2, 213, Johnson is a good fit for the 49ers’ defensive scheme.

[RELATED: 49ers should find starters at edge rusher, wide receiver]

He is at his best re-routing receivers off the line of scrimmage. He should be able to handle the requirements of the 49ers’ preferred cover-three defense. In addition, he is an aggressive hitter who will be good in run support.

Is 36 too high for him? Perhaps, but he could be a target in Round 3.

Longtime 49ers scout Reggie Cobb dies from apparent heart attack at 50

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49ers.com

Longtime 49ers scout Reggie Cobb dies from apparent heart attack at 50

Longtime 49ers area scout Reggie Cobb died Saturday morning in the Bay Area from an apparent heart attack, the club announced. He was 50.

“We are devastated by the sudden loss of a tremendous teammate and loyal friend, Reggie Cobb,” 49ers general manager John Lynch said in a statement.

“Reggie was an enthusiastic and passionate person who had a special ability to brighten up a room with his personality and infectious smile. For 10 years, the 49ers were better because of Reggie and these unique qualities that he possessed.

“He was a top-notch scout and an exemplary man whose years of service to this organization and the National Football League will not be forgotten. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends in this time of mourning.”

Cobb played seven NFL seasons after entering the league as the No. 30 overall pick of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 1990 from Tennessee.

In his career as a running back, he gained 3,743 yards and scored 25 touchdowns while playing four seasons with Tampa Bay and one apiece with Green Bay, Jacksonville and the New York Jets.

He transitioned into scouting, serving two years with Washington and six with Tampa Bay before coming to the 49ers. Cobb was entering his 11th year as an area scout with the 49ers. In 2011, he was named NFC Scout of the Year by the Fritz Pollard Alliance.

Cobb finished his college career ranked third on the University of Tennessee’s career rushing chart with 2,360 yards and 26 touchdowns. He was also a member of the school’s 100th anniversary team. He lettered in track and graduated with a degree in urban studies in 1990.

Cobb lived in Sugarland, Texas, with his son, DeMarcus, according to his 49ers bio.