Competitive, versatile, 6-foot cornerbacks who run in the low 4.4s are hard to find in professional football.
So when South Carolina cornerback Chris Culliver was available in the third round of the 2011 NFL Draft, 49ers general manager Trent Baalke acted swiftly in making Culliver the No. 80 overall pick.
The 49ers were enamored with Culliver’s physical attributes (6-foot-0, 200 pounds) as well as his competitive track record in the SEC (56 tackles, 14 pass breakups, 10 tackles-for-loss, 4.0 sacks, three interceptions and three forced fumbles).
Culliver started 32 games for the Gamecocks, including seven at cornerback as a senior. In addition to playing safety for his first three collegiate seasons, Culliver returned 106 kickoffs for 2,476 yards which both rank third in SEC history.
Culliver, along with fourth-round pick Kendall Hunter and sixth-round selection Ronald Johnson have strengthened the 49ers punt and kick return depth charts significantly.
Culliver will certainly be asked to strengthen the defensive backfield too.
“One of the things we really liked about Chris was the physical attributes of the player,” Baalke said at his film review session. “We like the fact that he’s played both safety and corner. To me, that’s a positive not a negative. That means there’s upside to the position he switched to as a senior, but it also gives you versatility.”
Culliver faced some of the best wideouts in the country, names like A.J. Green and Julio Jones, two players selected in the draft’s first six selections.
“Did he shut them down? No,” Baalke said. “The thing we liked is he stepped up and wasn’t afraid to compete.”
On one of Culliver’s highlights, the big cornerback displayed his safety skills when supporting the run. Seattle Seahawks first-round pick James Carpenter tried to get to Culliver in the left flat on a stretch run, but was beat by Culliver’s fast downhill instincts.
Culliver out-hustled Carpenter around the edge to make a diving tackle on another first-round pick, New Orleans Saints running back Mark Ingram.
“He’s not afraid of contact,” Baalke said after the play.
The general manager added that Culliver will have to learn more about his position to truly be successful in the NFL, but that’s the same for any cornerback who comes into the league.
Baalke reiterated his comfort with Culliver’s ability to grow at the position. He said Culiver got better at cornerback in every game he played the position, before his season was cut short to a torn pectoral.
Later on Goal Posts, we’ll review Baalke’s comments on Oklahoma State running back Kendall Hunter.
Tags: Chris Culliver, Trent Baalke
Posted in Announcements | 3 Comments »