Depending on the outcome of a coin toss with the Oakland Raiders, the San Francisco 49ers have either the 9th or 10th selection in the upcoming NFL Draft. Who they will select is less certain, as the 49ers, despite their 5-0 finish to the season, still have a handful of holes on their roster at a few crucial positions.
Perhaps the weakest position is cornerback, where third-round pick Ahkello Witherspoon looks like the team’s only starting-caliber player heading into the offseason. Therefore, it’s not a shock that this is the very position NFL Draft Insider Mel Kiper believes the 49ers will target in the first-round.
In his first mock draft, Kiper has San Francisco selecting Ohio State cornerback Denzel Ward with the ninth overall pick. Here’s what Kiper had to say about the pick via ESPN:
The 49ers have a really solid young core on defense, but most of their top picks were spent on the front seven. They really need a top-tier cornerback. Ward is the top corner in this class — if you consider Fitzpatrick to be a safety — though I don’t have as high a grade on him as I did for his former teammate Marshon Lattimore, who went No. 11 last year and had a great rookie season in New Orleans. Ward flashed in 2016 and had a tremendous junior season.
Selecting Ward would continue a five-year trend for the 49ers of selecting defensive players with their first pick in the draft. Two of those selections, safety Eric Red and defensive lineman DeForest Buckner, have been selected to the Pro Bowl.
Ward is 5-10, 197 pounds and was just named a consensus All-American after completing his junior season with Ohio State. The 49ers last selected a cornerback in the first round when they took Jimmie Ward in 2014.