Where three 49ers land among PFF's top defensive backs


The 49ers' defense is highly regarded as one of the best in the NFL. Following their dominant run in 2019, the group took a step back last year after suffering many big injuries.

A great pass rush -- like the 49ers had in 2019 -- is extremely beneficial towards the secondary. That kind of pressure up front makes corners and safeties' jobs much easier. 

Without a Nick Bosa-led defensive line, players such as Jason Verrett, Jimmie Ward and K'Waun Williams were faced with a tougher assignment last season but continued to play well. 

Pro Football Focus released their defensive backfield rankings, and all three of Verrett, Ward and Williams found their way onto a list of the league's best at each position. 

Verrett, who had a bounce-back season in 2020 after battling injuries most of the previous three seasons, is ranked 22nd among the league's best at outside cornerback. Verrett ended up being the 49ers' best corner with veteran Richard Sherman out most of the season. 

Recording 60 tackles, seven passes defended and two interceptions in 13 games, Verrett posted a 90.9 PFF coverage grade.

Williams, a slot cornerback in the 49ers' defense, is ranked eighth at his position by PFF. An often reliable piece of the 49ers secondary, Williams only played in eight games last season after battling numerous injuries. 

Re-signing with the 49ers this offseason after receiving interest from the New York Jets, Williams will return to his starting role at slot corner on a one-year deal. 


Only playing half the season, Williams totaled 22 tackles, two sacks, four passes defended and a forced fumble. Nicknamed the "Shark", Williams will be an important piece to the 49ers secondary in 2021. 

Ward is ranked as the 19th-best safety by PFF after another stellar campaign in 2020. 

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A constant in the 49ers' defensive success over the years, Ward has made a big fan out of head coach Kyle Shanahan, who once said that he would dawn his jersey on the sideline if he could. 

Ward recorded 73 tackles, a quarterback hit, four passes defended and two forced fumbles in 14 games last season. Alongside fellow safety Jaquiski Tartt, the 49ers have one of the better safety tandems in the league. 

The 49ers head into the 2021 season with plenty of hype, and still plenty to prove after an injury-plagued season the year prior. With the return of some prominent defensive lineman, these three defensive backs could find themselves climbing up the rankings even further. 

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