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February 18, 2014
Nickel for your thoughts: Mayock lists top slot cornerbacks

verrett.jpg

Mike Mayock says the upcoming draft class is the best - both at the top of the draft and throughout it - he's seen in the last decade. The top positions, according to the NFL Network analyst: wide receiver, offensive tackle and cornerback.

That works out well for the 49ers, who not only have 12 picks, including at least five in the first three rounds, but who have big needs at wide receiver and cornerback. One of the team's long-time starters at cornerback, Tarell Brown, will test the free-agent market next month. Another, Carlos Rogers, will be asked to take a pay cut, something he refused to do last season.

Rogers not only started on the outside, he moved inside to the nickel cornerback position when opponents lined up three receivers. The 49ers have options at the ever-more-critical nickel spot. Perrish Cox and Eric Wright are capable of playing there. Both are free agents but should be easy to re-sign if the 49ers want them back.

And if the 49ers wanted a nickel option in the draft? I asked Mayock which prospects were the best options to play the slot position. He had two options, TCU's Jason Verrett and Florida State's Lamarcus Joyner.

On Verrett: "The only reason I wouldn't say he's a top 20 pick is because of his size. He's 5-9. He's probably a buck 85. But he's ideal for the slot because he's quick-footed, he's tough. And remember, the slot guys - what gets overlooked - is that you've got to tackle also. And this kid's a tough kid even though he's undersized."

On Joyner: "I think he's a little bit like (Cardinals defensive back) Tyrann Mathieu in that he was a corner in college, but I think he's going to have to kick inside and either be a safety or nickel or both. ... He's an explosive, quick-twitch athlete. He can play safety or nickel. He played mostly corner at Florida State and has some special team ability also. I like him a lot."

Mayock's rankings:

Cornerback 
1. Darqueze Dennard, Michigan State 
2. Justin Gilbert, Oklahoma State 
3. Kyle Fuller, Virginia Tech 
4. Jason Verrett, TCU 
5. Bradley Roby, Ohio State

Safety 
1. Calvin Pryor, Louisville 
2. Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Alabama 
3. Lamarcus Joyner, Florida State 
4. Jimmie Ward, Northern Illinois 
5. Deone Bucannon, Washington State

Wide receiver 
1. Sammy Watkins, Clemson 
2. Marqise Lee, USC 
3. Mike Evans, Texas A&M 
4. Kelvin Benjamin, Florida State 
5. Jarvis Landry, LSU

-- Matt Barrows



MATTHEW BARROWS

Matt was born in Blacksburg, Va., and attended the University of Virginia. He graduated in 1995, went to Northwestern for a journalism degree a year later, and got his first job at a South Carolina daily in 1997. He joined The Bee as a Metro reporter in 1999 and started covering the 49ers in 2003. His favorite player of all time is Darrell Green.

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