NFL draft: Could 49ers buck their recent trend at cornerback?

It seems like every year heading into the NFL draft the 49ers have cornerback at or near the top of their list of needs. Most teams on some level need CB depth, but for San Francisco specifically they’re in a spot where they have plenty of bodies at the position with no real clarity on their long-term viability as NFL starters. This year they may need to make an investment in CB via the draft that they’ve never made before.

Typically the 49ers have taken an approach where they add bodies at CB and hope their pass rush lowers the bar enough for CB play that a few of the players in their large pool can rise up and clear that bar.

With their pass rush as the top priority under general manager John Lynch and Kyle Shanahan, CBs have mostly gone by the wayside in terms of investment. Save for Charvarius Ward, the club hasn’t paid a big-name free agent to come in. They’ve selected eight CBs since the 2017 draft. That year they took Colorado CB Ahkello Witherspoon No. 66 overall. They’ve not used a pick earlier than 102 on a CB since then, and only three of the eight CBs were taken in the top 50.

NFL Media’s Daniel Jeremiah believes the 49ers are in a spot with this year’s draft that it may be time to buck that trend.

They can continue to look at the corner position,” Jeremiah said Wednesday on a conference call. “I think, in a draft like this where they’re picking those picks at 63, 94, I think there’s opportunities there to get players that can come in in the secondary and help out and be a part of their mix right away.

If the 49ers take a CB at No. 63 it would be the earliest they’ve taken one since 2017 and it would be the first time they used a pick earlier than Round 3.

While it may not fit their roster-building ethos, it may be the year to do it. The 49ers have a handful of needs they could conceivably address at 63 overall, particularly if they don’t take an offensive lineman in the first round. Finding a starting-caliber CB to put alongside Ward and Deommodore Lenoir should be at least a medium-priority task if there’s no player available who can bolster San Francisco’s pass rush.

Building depth this year in the draft is paramount for the 49ers, but so is finding some upgrades at a couple starting spots. Cornerback is one of those spots, and we may see the 49ers pursue a player at that spot earlier than they ever have under Lynch and Shanahan.

Story originally appeared on Niners Wire