49ers

NFL Draft 2020: Richard Sherman's wisdom could prompt 49ers to draft CB

NFL Draft 2020: Richard Sherman's wisdom could prompt 49ers to draft CB

Editor's note: NBC Sports Bay Area will preview the NFL Draft with a look at the 49ers’ top needs, profiles of prospects that might fit their needs, along with some hidden gems. In this installment, we examine why the 49ers have a need at cornerback.

Cornerback Richard Sherman, who earned a Pro Bowl honor last season, enters the final year of a three-year contract he signed shortly after the Seattle Seahawks released him in March of 2018.

On the other side, there is some degree of uncertainty. Ahkello Witherspoon played well to open last season, missed games due to injuries, then struggled upon his return to action.

Emmanuel Moseley, in his second season after entering the NFL as an undrafted player, eventually took over as the starter. He was steady and reliable until giving up the critical third-and-15 pass to the Kansas City Chiefs in the fourth quarter of Super Bowl LIV. Moseley had a difficult assignment, for sure, but it ultimately was his responsibility to defend the deep one-third of the field in which Tyreek Hill caught the 44-yard pass from Patrick Mahomes.

The 49ers this week re-signed veteran cornerbacks Jason Verrett and Dontae Johnson. They figure to be mere insurance policies and would not impact the 49ers’ plan for the NFL draft in any meaningful way.

Cornerback is a need 49ers general manager John Lynch is likely to address in the draft. Wide receiver, defensive line and offensive line are other spots the 49ers could hit early. All of those spots are in the mix for the 49ers to consider with their top pick – either at No. 13 overall or a few spots later, if they opt to trade back.

Listen and subscribe to the 49ers Insider Podcast:

The 49ers have not selected a cornerback within the first two rounds of a draft since choosing Shawntae Spencer with the 58th overall pick in 2004. This year, it makes more sense than ever to bring in a young, talented cornerback.

Aside from the obvious need to strengthen the position and increase depth, the 49ers must contend with a group of wide receivers within the division that got a whole lot better this offseason when the Arizona Cardinals acquired DeAndre Hopkins to pair with Larry Fitzgerald. The 49ers struggled twice last season against the Cardinals, and they are not going away.

But there’s another every-day reason the 49ers should bring in a cornerback.

Sherman is one of the great players of this generation, as shown with his recent selection to the NFL’s All-Decade Team. He also is an incredibly willing resource for young players. Because Sherman is under contract for just one more season, bringing in a draft pick has the added benefit of guaranteeing a rookie will get a full year of guidance from one of the best communicators in the NFL.

[RELATED: NFL Draft 2020: Everything you need to know about unique, virtual event]

The most likely options for the 49ers at No. 13 overall are Jeff Okudah (Ohio State) and C.J. Henderson (Florida). Both players are approximately 6-foot-1, 205 pounds, and have the necessary skillsets to excel in the 49ers’ defensive scheme.

A.J. Terrell (Clemson), Trevon Diggs (Alabama) or Kristian Fulton (LSU) also fit the 49ers’ profile for players who could prompt the organization to dip into this pool of cornerbacks with one of their top draft selections.

Madden 21 ratings: George Kittle, Jimmy Garoppolo among winners, losers

Madden 21 ratings: George Kittle, Jimmy Garoppolo among winners, losers

The summer without sports has drawn on, but the (virtual) games are close to returning.

With the release of Madden 21 coming next month, the player ratings for the newest installment of the popular game slowly are trickling out. We know the top-10 quarterbacks, running backs and the four members of the "Madden 99 Club," of which 49ers tight end George Kittle was not a part of.

As with everything in life, there has to be winners and losers (yes, even in video game rankings). So let's take a quick look at who came out on top, and who was left searching or wanting more when it comes to the Madden 21 ratings.

Winner: The Madden 99 Club

It's an elite group every year. The select few players are given a 99 rating in Madden, meaning they are the best of the best, according to those exalted video game gods doing the rankings. This year's class included no shockers, with Patrick Mahomes, Aaron Donald, Christian McCaffrey and Steph Gilmore making the club.

There could be an argument made for Kittle, DeAndre Hopkins or Michael Thomas, all of whom were given a 98 rating, but it's hard to argue with the 2021 99 Club class.

The celebratory dinner is on Mahomes.

Loser: Jimmy Garoppolo

The 49ers quarterback has spent all season getting poked and prodded by every Tom, Dick and Harry with a keyboard, podcast or television show. There was the Tom Brady scenario. The Aaron Rodgers questions. All the talk about the Super Bowl overthrow and not enough about a defense that fell flat in the fourth quarter.

And now, Garoppolo finds himself with an 83 rating and not in the top 10 of quarterbacks in Madden 21? Ouch. That burns. To be fair, I ranked Garoppolo as the 12th best quarterback in the NFL, which likely is where he will fall in the Madden rankings.

The quarterbacks above him include, Mahomes, Brady, Drew Brees, Lamar Jackson, Russell Wilson, Aaron Rodgers, Matt Ryan, Deshaun Watson, Dak Prescott and Carson Wentz. It's hard to argue that Garoppolo is better than any of those (I did rank him one spot higher than Prescott).

After another year in Shanahan's system, there's a chance for Garoppolo to have a big year, win a Super Bowl and boost his Madden rating. You know, the truly important stuff.

Winner: George Kittle

No, he didn't make the "Madden 99 Club," but 98 isn't so bad, right?

Kittle has become one of the NFL's top stars during his three seasons in the NFL, and already has eclipsed Travis Kelce as the top tight end in football. Kittle is due a big contract extension, one that many believe should see him paid the same as Hopkins and Thomas, who he has the same ranking as.

One more season of stiff-arming helpless defenders into the turn and Kittle will get that "99 Club" package. Can't wait.

Loser: Running back rankings

The running back rankings were released Tuesday, and we've got a few issues.

OK, so McCaffrey at 99 is easy. I know Derrick Henry is a mutant alien who is impossible to tackle but is he really the second-best running back in the NFL? Is he better than Ezekiel Elliott, Saquon Barkley or Dalvin Cook? The committee of one i.e. me, says no.

Then, there's some massive disrespect to both Alvin Kamara and Josh Jacobs, who both are top seven running backs in my opinion.

Here are my totally off-the-cuff rankings:
McCaffrey (99)
Elliott (94)
Barkley (93)
Cook (93)
Henry (92)
Kamara (91)
Jacobs (91)
Chubb (91)

Please, don't at me.

Winner: Henry Ruggs

The 2020 NFL Draft was LOADED at wide receiver. It was viewed as one of the best receiver classes in history.

When all the smoke settled, Raiders rookie Henry Ruggs was given the top rating off the class at 76. Ruggs edged out Dallas Cowboys rookie CeeDee Lamb and Denver Broncos wideout Jerry Jeudy for top rookie receiver, thanks to the 98-speed rating he was given.

Honestly, that might not be fast enough.

[RELATED: 49ers could have Achilles heel at WR if Aiyuk, Hurd don't step up]

Loser: People who care about Madden rankings

I get it, video games are fun. But if you're sitting over here fuming mad because some guy you've never met gave a player you've probably also never met a lower ranking than you believe they deserved, please calm down.

First, let's acknowledge that you, the person who cares deeply about the Madden rankings, isn't looking at this through an unbiased lens. Second, if it really bothers you, I suggest doing what I would do at age 8. Go into the roster, edit your favorite players to make them super dope and then just have fun destroying everyone.

I've still never told my best friend I tinkered with Dennis Dixon... sorry, I mean QB #10's ranking in NCAA Football 2007. Mum's the word.

What Steve Young did late in 49ers career that shocked Steve Mariucci

What Steve Young did late in 49ers career that shocked Steve Mariucci

When Steve Mariucci took over as the 49ers' next head coach ahead of the 1997 season, Steve Young already was established as a star quarterback in the NFL. 

By that point, Young had 12 years in the league under his belt. He had two MVP trophies to his name and multiple Super Bowl rings. When Mariucci arrived for training camp in '97, though, Young still found a way to surprise his new coach

"When we came into training camp, most teams will test their athletes to see if they're in shape and high schools and colleges will do the same thing ... Steve Young would really be the best guy as far as our test was concerned," Mariucci said Monday on 95.7 The Game's "Damon, Ratto & Kolsky" show. "He was right up there and would pass most of the time all the receivers and running backs and corners.

"This guy was a great athlete. Forget about being 36, 37 and 38 years old, he was really a top-shelf, well-trained athlete."

[SPORTS UNCOVERED: Listen to the latest episode]

Young was turning 36 in just three months during Mariucci's first training camp with the 49ers. It was well established that he was one of the best dual-threat QBs ever, a player well ahead of his time.

Before Mariucci arrived on the scene, Young had accumulated over 25,000 passing yards and more than 3,500 rushing yards. He already had 124 passing touchdowns and 34 rushing TDs. And then Young led the NFL in completion percentage (67.7) for the fourth straight year in his first season under Mariucci. Young had 3,029 passing yards, 199 rushing yards and 22 total TDs in '97.

Young was again great in '98 with 4,170 passing yards, 36 touchdowns through the air, 454 rushing yards and six more TDs on the ground. But he played just three games in '99, ending his career with a bevy of concussions.

[RELATED: Madden 21 leak reveals top-10 rated 49ers players this year]

"It's a shame, I really do believe I had him in his prime," Mariucci said. "Had he not gotten a couple of concussions, I think he could have played into his 40s just like we saw Brett Favre and Tom Brady and Drew Brees. Steve Young was still throwing the ball very, very well late in his 30s."

While it's no secret Young is one of the greatest athletes football fans have ever seen, even a Hall of Famer can surprise his coach here and there with his ridiculous talent.