49ers have formal meeting with Kentucky DB Phillips at combine

49ers have formal meeting with Kentucky DB Phillips at combine originally appeared on NBC Sports Bay Area

INDIANAPOLIS -- After experiencing a season-long need at nickel back in 2023, the 49ers can be expected to address that spot in the upcoming NFL Draft.

The 49ers are looking to find someone who can cover the slot, and they have their eye on Kentucky defensive back Dru Phillips. San Francisco had a formal interview with Phillips at the NFL Scouting Combine, he told NBC Sports Bay Area on Thursday.

Phillips projects as a possible third- or fourth-round draft pick after he had an impressive week at the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama. NFL draft analyst Daniel Jeremiah believes Phillips will earn a starting role at nickel back during his rookie season.

It’s a position that Phillips said is a good fit for his skillset and mindset.

“For me, when I first started playing nickel, it felt natural to me,” he said. “I played corner my first two years. I never played nickel. They put me at nickel in my third year, and it was natural. I feel like how I’d been preparing for the past years, it just fit me perfectly to go inside.”

The 49ers began last season with Isaiah Oliver as the nickel back. After a three-game losing streak, the 49ers switched things up after the bye week. Starting cornerback Deommodore Lenoir moved inside to cover the slot receiver in passing situations with Ambry Thomas entering at cornerback.

The 49ers made the decision to use veteran Logan Ryan at nickel back in the Super Bowl due to Thomas’ struggles.

Phillips is one of several defensive backs with whom the 49ers met this week. The 49ers' personnel department conducts the face-to-face meetings with coaches joining on a video call from the Bay Area.

“It was a good meeting,” Phillips said. “The coaches are really cool. I liked them. It’s a great scheme and they’ve had success in it. And they want to take it to the next level and put the pieces together.”

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