49ers

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. 

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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. 

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.

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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.