Which safety could the 49ers tap next month as the heir to Dashon Goldson? Take your pick. It's a good to very good year for big-bodied, hard-hitting safeties, which likely is why the 49ers felt they didn't need to get into a bidding war over Goldson, who signed a huge deal with Tampa Bay.
The 49ers' plan at the position seems to be one in which Donte Whitner and newly signed Craig Dahl - two of the smartest players on the team - mentor a young player until he is ready to step in. The 49ers also promise to have plenty of competition at the position with C.J. Spillman, Darcel McBath, Trenton Robinson and Michael Thomas thrown into the mix.
Here are the top players at the position. All are expected to be taken in the first or second rounds of the draft.
1. Jonathan Cyprien, Florida International, 6-1, 209.
Pro Football Talk reported Wednesday that the 49ers are on a long list of teams Cyprien will visit over the next few weeks. That's typical for a smaller-school player. Scouts will have made far fewer stops at Florida International than they did, say, Florida State, and the file on Cyprien is likely much thinner. Cyprien is well-built and aggressive like Goldson, and he can cover a lot of ground in pass coverage. He also looked good when matched against some of the best receivers and tight ends in the nation at the Senior Bowl.
2. Matt Elam, Florida, 5-10, 210.
The 49ers were on hand for Elam's pro day March 12 and had lunch with him the day before. Elam was a team leader at Florida and a very willing hitter out of the secondary. Like Cyprien, some see him more as a strong safety. Then again, Goldson also had a lot of strong safety attributes, and the 49ers use their safeties almost interchangeably. Elam's height might be a concern, especially if he is going to be paired with 5-10 Whitner.
3. Eric Reid, LSU, 6-2, 210.
The 49ers met with Reid at the combine and one of their top scouts, Justin Chabot, was on hand for LSU's pro day on Wednesday. Because LSU has so many talented players, the 49ers - and every other team - will have made multiple stops in Baton Rouge throughout the year. Reid has excellent size and good speed, and he very well could be the player the 49ers are targeting in the first round. Reid said Wednesday he had not yet set up any visits with teams.
4. D.J. Swearinger, South Carolina, 5-11, 210.
The 49ers attended Swearinger's pro day Wednesday but he does not, as of now, have a visit planned with the 49ers. He might be the biggest hitter of the bunch, and he was a respected team leader at South Carolina.
5. Kenny Vaccaro, Texas, 6-0, 215.
Many consider Vaccaro, who took over at Texas for current Seahawks safety Earl Thomas, the top safety in the draft. He has good size and long arms and is able to cover some of the bigger receivers and tight ends that pose mismatch problems in the NFL. Vaccaro does not have a visit lined up with the 49ers, his agent said today.
- Matt Barrows