Editor’s note: Insider Matt Maiocco will analyze each position group leading up to 49ers training camp. The full squad reports on July 30 with the first practice scheduled for July 31. This installment focuses on the cornerbacks.
The 49ers do not have a big-money cornerback on their roster, but they have invested plenty into the position in recent years.
The team has spent seven draft picks on cornerbacks the past three years. First-round selection Jimmie Ward, who was chosen as a safety in 2014, saw considerable action at right cornerback during the offseason program.
Defensive coordinator Jim O’Neil said he believes Ward is one of the team’s best 11 defensive players, and they must find a way to get him on the field for all downs.
--Will Redmond (possible NFI list to open camp)
--Prince Charles Iworah
Is Tramaine Brock locked into a starting job?
While he might not be guaranteed the job at left cornerback, Brock appeared to strengthen his hold on the spot with a strong offseason program.
“He’s one guy who’s really jumped out to me,” 49ers defensive backs coach Jeff Hafley said during the offseason concluding three-day minicamp last month.
Brock started a career-high 15 games last season and rated favorably in coverage. With so many young, unproven players on the roster, it would be a major surprise if another cornerback rises to make a challenge for Brock’s job.
What about the other jobs?
Ward is the best fit at nickel back, which virtually guarantees he’ll be on the field approximately two-thirds of the team’s defensive plays. He is also in the mix to compete at right cornerback, where he lined up during the offseason.
Kenneth Acker, Dontae Johnson, Keith Reaser and Rashard Robinson all had their moments during the offseason program. This competition is way too close to call.
What can be expected from Redmond?
He sustained a torn ACL in October, and the 49ers thought enough of him to select him in the third round of the draft, anyway. On the night he chose Redmond, GM Trent Baalke promised Redmond will be “ready to go this season.” Redmond did not participate in the offseason program. It seems unlikely Redmond can make a serious push for immediate playing time as a rookie, but he has the talent to be a factor in the future.