With at least 11 picks in the 2014 NFL Draft, the San Francisco 49ers have given themselves ammo to be able to move up and select prospects they covet. General manager Trent Baalke has shown the tendency to be aggressive when need be, as the team has traded up to secure the services of players like Eric Reid, Colin Kaepernick and Anthony Davis in the past.
The 49ers have few needs on their current roster, but one glaring hole is at the cornerback position. With Tramaine Brock being the only player who is guaranteed to be in the starting lineup when the season starts, San Francisco should make an aggressive move in the first round to ensure they get the top corner on their board.
That player should be Oklahoma State‘s Justin Gilbert.
In an era of football where the passing game dominates play, you can’t put a price on having an explosive defensive back who can cause a turnover at any time. Gilbert, who is as athletically gifted as anyone in the draft, led the Big 12 with seven interceptions in 2013 and returned two of those for touchdowns.
In addition to making plays on the defensive side of the ball, Gilbert is a dynamic return man and has taken six kicks back for scores in his collegiate career.
Gilbert has the prototypical size (6-foot, 202-pounds) and speed (4.37 40) to be able to match up with any receiver in the league. He also has great length due to his long arms which is something the 49ers look for in prospects. While Gilbert does have some issues with footwork, 49ers secondary coach Ed Donatell is one of the best in the game and could help clean up any deficiencies in technique.
With Brock being the only corner whose roster spot is set in stone, Gilbert will fill a need and could anchor the group moving forward. The 49ers could start him immediately or break him in slowly. If the team chooses to go with Chris Culliver (or another cornerback) to start opposite Brock, Gilbert can initially be the first person off the bench in three receivers sets.
While Gilbert won’t solve all of the 49ers’ issues at cornerback, he would be an effective first step in solidifying the position moving forward.