2024 NFL Draft

Six cornerbacks 49ers could target in first three rounds of NFL draft

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The 49ers have two top-flight cornerbacks in Charvarius Ward and Deommodore Lenoir, but the 2023 NFL season showed they lacked a third who could consistently play nickel, with their starters on the outside. Lenoir was extremely effective in the slot when called upon, but that left the outside vulnerable.

General manager John Lynch and the 49ers' front office added veteran talent in free agency, signing Isaac Yiadom and Rock Ya-Sin to one-year contracts, but both predominantly have played on the outside. Young talent such as Darrell Luter Jr. and Samuel Womack could develop into contributors, but they're the only cornerbacks signed past 2024, so the 49ers will look very closely at the position in next week's NFL draft.

Here are six cornerbacks who'd perfectly fit the 49ers' defense and could be available in the first three rounds of the 2024 NFL Draft.

Kool-Aid McKinstry

School: Alabama
Height: 5-foot-11
Weight: 199 pounds

McKinstry is PFF.com's fifth-ranked cornerback and No. 26 overall prospect after his great showing in his final two seasons at Alabama. He allowed just 19 receptions on 39 targets for 205 yards, one touchdown and a 73.1 passer rating last season.

McKinstry predominantly lined up on the outside with the Crimson Tide and broke up seven passes. He's known for his football IQ and athleticism, and would fit the 49ers' scheme well.

“I feel like I could play in the slot because of the training I had at Bama,” McKinstry said at the NFL Scouting Combine. “You have to know everything and be able to play anywhere. I fell like I’m physical to set the edge, and I can guard whoever is in the slot. My knowledge and understanding leverage as a nickel is at a high level.”

NFL analyst Daniel Jeremiah projects McKinstry to the Detroit Lions at No. 29 in his final mock draft, but if he falls past them, the 49ers could pounce at No. 31.

Cooper DeJean

School: Iowa
Height: 6 feet
Weight: 203 pounds

DeJean is ranked the No. 1 cornerback in the draft and No. 8 overall prospect by PFF, so if he is the 49ers' priority, they might have to trade up in the first round to grab him.

DeJean was on the field for 705 defensive snaps at Iowa, allowing 20 receptions on 46 targets for 194 yards and a 37.8 passer rating, while also recoding two interceptions and six pass breakups. He predominantly lined up on the outside but did see 46 snaps lined up in the box/slot.

The first-team AP All-American likely will be gone by the 49ers' No. 31 pick hits, but he's still noteworthy to consider as an option.

Mike Sainristil

School: Michigan
Height: 5-foot-9
Weight: 182 pounds

NFL.com's Lance Zierlein projects Sainristil as a second-round pick after a solid showing during his final two seasons at Michigan. Unlike McKinstry and DeJean, Sainristil has a lot of experience playing in the middle of the field, with 403 of his 684 defensive snaps originating in the slot.

Sainristill allowed 29 receptions on 50 targets for 412 yards and four touchdowns, but he also snagged six interceptions and made six pass breakups last season.

Sainristil is PFF’s sixth-ranked cornerback and No. 34 overall prospect, which could make him a more likely 49ers possibility in the early rounds of the draft.

T.J. Tampa

School: Iowa State
Height: 6-foot-1
Weight: 189 pounds

Tampa's final two seasons at Iowa State showed his potential to transition to the NFL, as he allowed 25 receptions on 49 targets for 240 yards and one touchdown. He broke up nine passes and caught two interceptions in 12 games last season.

PFF ranked Tampa as its No. 8 cornerback and No. 51 overall prospect, and while he doesn't have a lot of experience at the nickel, he has length and physicality to play on the outside.

Zierlein pegs the first-team All-Big 12 defensive back as a third-round pick, meaning he could be a 49ers possibility on Day 2 of the draft.

Andru Phillips

School: Kentucky
Height: 5-foot-11
Weight: 190 pounds 

ESPN senior analyst Mel Kiper Jr.'s mock draft has Phillips landing in the Bay in the second round. Phillips, like Sainristil, has extensive experience in the slot, with 223 of his 710 defensive snaps at Kentucky originating on the inside.

Phillips allowed 38 receptions on 57 targets for 434 yards, three touchdowns and a 106.9 passer rating last season. He broke up six passes and made 14 coverage stops, tying him for 15th among all cornerbacks with at least 350 snaps, and also recorded 47 total tackles (1.5 for loss).

Phillips is PFF’s 10th-ranked cornerback and No. 64 overall prospect, and he's noted as having a lot of potential that could be unlocked with good coaching.

Kris Abrams-Draine

School: Missouri
Height: 5-foot-11
Weight: 179 pounds

If the 49ers want a value pick at nickel back, Abrams-Draine might be the best fit. He has significant experience at the position and led Missouri with four interceptions and 13 pass breakups last season. He also racked up 51 tackles, 2.5 for a loss.

“I can play inside or outside,” Abrams-Draine said the NFL Scouting Combine. “I naturally played both this year. I can tackle well, and cover inside and outside, too. I want to tackle and am not going to back down from a tackle.”

Abrams-Draine allowed just 24 receptions on 51 targets for 324 yards, three touchdowns and a 54.7 passer rating. He's projected to go somewhere in the second or third round, which means he could be available to the 49ers on Day 2.

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