49ers seeking big, physical cornerback for revamped defense

SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- The 2017 NFL draft is set to begin on April 27 in Philadelphia. The San Francisco 49ers own 10 picks in this year's draft, including No. 2 overall.

With a new regime in coach Kyle Shanahan and general manager John Lynch in place, it's hard to know what direction the Niners will go with their picks. But the 49ers have plenty of needs as they go about reconstructing their roster.

Here's a look at what the 49ers need at cornerback:

In place: Jimmie Ward (maybe), Rashard Robinson, Will Redmond, Keith Reaser, Dontae Johnson, K'Waun Williams, JaCorey Shepherd, Prince Charles Iworah.

Potential fits: Ohio State CB Marshon Lattimore, Ohio State CB Gareon Conley, Washington CB Kevin King, Alabama CB Marlon Humphrey, LSU CB Tre'Davious White, Florida CB Quincy Wilson, Colorado CB Ahkello Witherspoon, Washington CB Sidney Jones, Clemson CB Cordrea Tankersley, Colorado CB Chidobe Awuzie.

What’s needed: Even before the Niners released starting cornerback Tramaine Brock on the heels of his arrest on suspicion of felony domestic violence, this was going to be a position of need. And it was probably not a coincidence that this is one of the few positions the 49ers didn't spend much money on in free agency. With Ward expected to get a look at free safety, the Niners could have a glaring hole for a starting outside cornerback opposite Robinson, who flashed plenty of potential as a rookie. Redmond, Reaser and Williams are good bets to battle for the nickel corner job and Ward could still bump into that role in nickel situations as well.

But the Niners' new look defense under coordinator Robert Saleh not only calls for talented outside corners but talented corners who are have the size and length to be physical at the line of scrimmage. Think of the role Richard Sherman plays in Seattle and you have an idea of what the Niners seek.

The good news? If ever there was a class to find talented cornerbacks of that ilk, this seems to be the one. Many draft analysts believe the secondary is the strength of this class and the Niners were likely well aware of that as they left the position alone in the free-agent market.

Verdict: It's a safe bet that at some point, probably in the first two days of the draft, the 49ers will draft a cornerback. It could even happen as early as their first pick at No. 2 overall. If that's the case, the choice would seem to be Lattimore, who is the consensus top corner in the draft and has the size and skill set that would seem to match what the Niners are looking for. They haven't been connected to him a lot in the run up to the draft but they did host him on a visit and there's understandable interest. The rest of the corners listed would all seem to make sense based on their size though not all have the skill set. King is one to watch as he has local ties and absolutely is a match in how he profiles. If the Niners choose to pass on Lattimore, the depth of this crop of cornerbacks could still land them the type of player they seek in the second, third or even potentially fourth round. This class is that good.