Why ex-49ers GM believes Tariq Castro-Fields is team's best 2022 draft pick

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Why ex-49ers GM believes Castro-Fields is 49ers' best 2022 pick originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington

The 49ers chose seven players before selecting Penn State cornerback Tariq Castro-Fields with the final pick of the sixth round.

But a well-respected talent evaluator believes that selection might end up as one of the organization's most impactful additions from the 2022 NFL Draft.

“I think their best bang for the buck was getting Castro-Fields,” former 49ers general manager Scot McCloughan said on the "49ers Talk" podcast. “I think he’s a bigger version of Shawntae Spencer. I think he’s going to play, and he’s going to play well.”

Spencer was a reliable player for the 49ers over the course of eight seasons from 2004 to 2011, where he started 72 games and registered 11 interceptions.

Castro-Fields (6-foot-1, 197 pounds) surprised many in the NFL world with his decisions to return to Penn State for the 2020 and 2021 seasons after a breakout campaign in 2019. That season he started 12 games and recorded two interceptions with 10 passes broken up.

He appeared in 52 games over five seasons at Penn State with 30 starts. Castro-Fields allowed just three touchdowns in coverage in his college career.

Castro-Fields has a nice blend of intelligence, size and speed, McCloughan pointed out. He clocked a time of 4.38 seconds in the 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine.

McCloughan said he believes Castro-Fields could also serve as a backup safety early in his career before settling into a starting role as a cornerback.

“There are some good receivers who came out of the Big Ten the last couple of years, and he’s a 50-50 guy,” McCloughan said of Castro-Fields. “He competes with them. He doesn’t back down from them.

“I thought where they got him, that’s a steal. That’s the best pick they had in the draft just because of where they got him.”