49ers take CB Ahkello Witherspoon, then trade down for 2018 2nd-rd. pick. Grade?


The 49ers had an obvious need for a cornerback, so why didn’t they take one earlier in the draft?

They allowed 19 defensive backs to come off the board before drafting Colorado cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon with the 66th pick. The Niners must feel Witherspoon is as good as those other 19 DBs who were drafted before him, otherwise they would have traded up for someone else.

But Witherspoon is a project. He has only four years of experience playing football, he’s a bad tackler and he intercepted just three passes in college. He probably won’t help the 49ers as a rookie.

Why weren’t the 49ers more aggressive about drafting a corner? They currently have eight picks on Day 3 — all eight of those players won’t make the final roster. The Niners could have traded a few of those picks to move up seven or eight spots and take the better cornerback from Colorado, Chidobe Awuzie, whom the Dallas Cowboys drafted with the 60th pick.

That would have been an A-plus move.

Waiting for Witherspoon was a B-minus move.

But the 49ers weren’t done. They also owned the next pick — No. 67. They could have spent it on a running back or a quarterback or a pass rusher, but but they traded down with the New Orleans Saints and turned the 67th pick into a seventh rounder this year and a second rounder next year.

Whomever the Niners get with that second rounder next year will be much better than anyone they could have gotten with the 67th pick this year. Excellent trade.


This article has 155 Comments

  1. A small trade up for Awuzie would have been better than Witherspoon. Agreed.

    The trade was good, though if the Saints do well will the 2nd round pick next year be better than the 67th pick in a deep draft? Hard to know. But I still like the trade.

  2. I think Witherspoon lacks the physicality, but possess the prototypical size, length and speed they like in this defense. The potential is there by the comparisons to Dick Charmin, and Lynch should be able to bring the grasshopper along. Yea, that trade was outstanding and could be part of the ammo required to go up and get Darnold or Rosen next year….

    1. Sounds reasonable now, but if those two guys play well next year, the competition to draft them will be very high (similar to Wentz/Goff and maybe even more). I’d prefer they take Peterman this year and see what he can do. This team has been kicking the QB can down the road for years.

      1. Can’t force it. Webb/Peterman/Kaaya look to still be on the board in the 4th round. I assumed that would be where their sweet spot would be for a quarterback. The question is, which one does Shanny like?

  3. Makes me wonder if the Niners are acquiring ammo for next year for their QB acquisition via the draft or trade.

    1. Or multiple picks to throw at the patriots for garapollo, I loved yesterday’s moves but feel underwhelmed today. If the saints do well next year, won’t be a great move but you never know, I do not mean to be negative but to take a corner that shied away from contact worries me, can you teach toughness? I guess I loved peterman more than the coach, and he knows more than me! Still great moves to build a future, I guess I wanted to get some stud o players and that is where we could be very mediocre next year.

    2. I’m glad that the Browns took Kizer. It probably means that they won’t try to move up for a QB in 2018. They have incredible ammo to move up. It’s looking like we’re the favorite to get the top QB at this point. If we sign Cousins, then we can use those extra picks in any number of other ways.

  4. Hmmm, does Lynch read this Blog? He traded back a lot farther than I thought, but upgrading a third round pick to a second round pick is huge.

  5. I love Witherspoon and think he will be starting by week 8. Him and Robinson will give them a nice set of corners. He can get coached up on the tackling and they can get him stronger in the weight room. Great pick imo. He can cover anything on the outside just not a slot guy.

  6. I agree Grant. I was hoping for his teammate Awuzie and thought we should’ve traded up for him near the end of the 2nd. Witherspoon is talented in coverage, especially in the redzone, but he is super soft and doesn’t tackle. If he toughens up he can be a good player.

    I like the move to pick up a 2nd next year. Gives us more ammunition in what should be a nice an class if we need to snag a signal caller in 2018. Kirk cousins, be damned!

    1. Awuzie is a fun player to watch. He’s for sure the best blitzing corner in this class, and he plays with a physicality that is appreciated….

      1. Awuzie is a good corner, but he suffers a bit from Chris Culliver-itis. He rarely turns his head back when running with the intended receiver. As I recall, Culliver would frustrate me to no end because he rarely played the ball thereby allowing the WR to lock onto the ball knowing that CC would not compete for it.

    1. Mid,
      I like Jahad Thomas out of Temple. The perfect change of pace RB. Better than average speed and size, but his cutback ability will tie defenders in knots.

  7. Not to make a crazy comparison, but let’s remember that the one knock on Deion Sanders was that he never wanted to get his uniform dirty. If this kid can really cover, that’s a good start.

      1. if any team depends on a CB to tackle, they’re in trouble

        So Witherspoon should not tackle a receiver if he is unable to keep the receiver from catching the ball.

        1. hey dummy – the article is about run support

          I guess you’ve never heard of deion sanders?

          you know, the guy who “didn’t want to get his uniform dirty”


    1. Ha. I feel that way about Kizer. If everyone’s wish on this blog about the QB they don’t want gets granted, we’ll be looking at UDFA prospects. Niners only have two QBs, they still probably need at least two more.

        1. I love Kelly, but we need to thread lightly and not over do it with head cases since Foster could possibly become our resident knuckle-head this year and beyond.

  8. They’re saying Webb is as talented as Goff. Not sure that’s a compliment or an encouraging comparison for the Giants.

  9. Witherspoon is solid in coverage. He was drafted to be a starter next year and may beat out Johnson this year. I give the pick an A-. He has flaws, but he’s a good pick for a 3rd rounder and has a lot of potential.

    The trade gets an A+. We are planning for the future and we haven’t reached for a QB.

    1. “We are planning for the future and we haven’t reached for a QB.”

      Hahaha. I know you typed this before they wasted a pick on C.J. Beathard, but it’s almost like you dared them…

  10. So with all the moves so far, SF still ends up with just 3 picks in the first 3 rounds this year.

    Thought they needed to fill lots of holes…. :-(

    SF always ends up with lots of 4th, 5th, 6th, and 7th round draft picks that haven’t been of any value.

    Hopefully current regime can actually find players in 4,5,6 and 7 this year who can actually contribute.

  11. The 49ers had an obvious need for a cornerback, so why didn’t they take one earlier in the draft?”

    The niners have an obvious need at many positions. We were one of the worst D versus the run last year. Maybe the front office felt like they wanted to address those other needs with high draft picks. Or maybe they read the draft actuarial tables and realize that there is a high bust rate of secondary players drafted in the early rounds. On another note , I think the trade with NO was a good one.

  12. Incomplete

    Crazy measurables. Incredible production curve, intelligent, seems to succeed at everything.

    I think it comes down to how fast he refines his technique and learns to read routes. But most importantly, can he learn to love to hit. So it’s either an A or an F, and we probably find out pretty fast.

    The trade back I thought was smart. Load up to be able to make a move if there is a qb we want next year.

      1. Just stop. The kid has an idea of what he wants to do after football, which is a smart idea because he does not know when his football career could come to an end.

  13. Just like all the Niners teams..just wait till next year..Meanwhile another 3 and out or field goal…Riviting I tell you…
    Lynch is running his drafts just like Baalke…
    Stockpile worthless late round picks and keep drafting busts…keep drafting defense and hope we can win games 13-10..
    What a joke..far cry from the 49ers I grew up
    Grant can you please tell me how many corners the 49ers have drafted compared to other teams the last 5 years?
    I bet its mind boggling..Feels like groundhog day.
    This team is a defensive swamp that needs to be drained..

  14. Its an okay pick. I think this pick happend because of the T Brock thing. If he was still on the team I dont see them taking a CB….

    But anyways Grant please help me understand something!

    With out new defense will Arik Armstead, Defeorest Buckner and Solomon Thomas all be on the field at the same time consistently?

      1. Ok so in the base defense they will all be out there.

        But so like when we go to nickel one of them will be sitting? Is that kind of what you are saying?

        1. I think all can play on 1st and 10 whether it’s base or nickel, but on third down one of them has to sit. You don’t want one of them rushing the quarterback against an offensive tackle.

          1. Armstead seems really big for Leo. OTOH, IIRC, doesn’t Jax have a bigger Leo than Seattle. If so, maybe they think they can keep going bigger if they think they have the right guy.

          2. Okay I see thanks grant!

            The thought of getting all 3 of them on the field all the time was bothering me. But it seems like its doable most the time.

            By the way I always laugh about how you called AJ Jenkins a bust after the first day of practice! And now it makes me think about how we got Reuben Foster in like the same spot. And it gives me a lot of confidence in Lynch and his choices.

            Keep up the good work Grant love reading your articles!

        1. He might try that, but it won’t work. Armstead can push the pocket on first down, but he’s not a quality third-down edge rusher.

  15. Think we end up with Peterman in the 4th & Kelly in 7th? Having GM & coach with 6 year contracts is starting to show.

    1. From that link.

      “Pro Football Focus stats to know: Ranked 13th in the draft class in adjusted completion percentage at 73.5 percent. Had the third-highest percentage of drops in the draft class at 9.1 percent.”

    1. Definitely Shanny’s pick, but it’s a bad one. Though I guess he could make for a decent backup to whichever QB they draft next year.

  16. Kurt Cousins was very similar to him coming out of MSU. EVERYONE though Kurt was going to be a career back up. I think we have to trust Kyle on this. This is his type of QB. Smart with an average arm. We will see. You never know. He obviously likes him cause he moved back into the third when they didn’t need to do it. He sees something.

  17. http://www.49erswebzone.com/articles/105627-transcript-akhello-witherspoon-conference-call-media/

    What do you know about the defense you’ll be coming into? Are you familiar with that Seattle Seahawks type of scheme?

    “Yeah, I mean, I know that they play just press man, tight thirds, cover three, which basically turns into man once the receiver reaches vertical and that’s what we discussed on my visit out there and that they liked my ability to play press and be up in your face and be physical. That’s what I intend to do.”

    Where do you actually envision your game in three years? How do you see yourself fitting into the NFL?

    “I think just a dominant player, both in the run game and the pass game. That’s one of my weaknesses is in tackling. I don’t shy away from it, I think it’s just the experience, understanding how to get the guy down, and understanding when and where to shoot and take my opportunities and make plays.”

        1. I’m willing to bet this guy will fit this system very well. I trust Kyle. Maybe this guy turns into a nice back up. Those are important. But if he is something more it becomes a massive get.

          1. So basically you are saying it doesn’t matter who they draft, you’ll be happy with it because you trust Kyle.

        2. With Tom Brady being taken with New England with their third sixth round draft pick late in that round, what was the prognosis on him? The bottom line is that their are few humans who can predict which college QBs will be anything in the NFL. The cost of trading up was minuscule (one seventh round pick).

          1. So what are you saying? Its a complete lottery and Beathard is as good a chance as anyone, so why not take him? If that’s the case why not take someone else? Why not wait until the 7th round? Heck why draft a QB at all, just grab a bunch of UDFAs and see if any work out?

            Or are you saying draft pundits don’t know who will work out but Shanahan knows the magic formula?

            Sorry, the logic of this post makes little sense to me. End of the day I am not a fan of Beathard this high. No, I don’t know whether he will in fact be any good or not, and if he does end up being good I will happily eat my words. But to me he is a backup calibre QB that has been considerably overdrafted. And it appears the vast majority of draft pundits feel the same.

            1. I think what HT was saying is that from time to time, a college QB who, by all appearances, is unlikely to have any real future in the NFL beats the odds. I believe HT is also saying that KS may be one of the rare individuals who is better than average at finding diamonds in the rough at the QB position. This seems to be a reasonable position.

              1. Just because sometimes an unlikely looking guy beats the odds doesn’t mean you should reach for such a player. No, the only reason for drafting him so high is because Shanahan really believes in him. At which point we need to ask – what makes us so confident Shanahan is so far ahead of the curve in QB evaluation?

              2. I agree with that KS must believe in Beathard.

                As for KS’s ability to assess QB talent, your’s is a fair question. It’s a very small sample size: Successes = Cousins; Failures = Nobody (so far).

                Even considering the surprise that CJB’s selection was, it might be too soon to call this a bad pick.

            2. Niners were doing so well, then they make another unforced error. Even if he turns out well, they could have drafted him later.

              Niners could have drafted Malachi Dupree WR, Jordan Leggett TE, Carl Lawson DE, Josh Malone WR, Brian Hill RB, Isaac Asiata G, Jeremy Sprinkle TE, Josh Reynolds WR, Vince Biegel LB, Julie’n Davenport OT.

      1. This is directed at Scooter. Sorry.

        I’m as befuddled as the rest of you and would like to believe in the hidden jem theory. Perhaps KS is as good as advertised or perhaps he overreached in this instance.

        I think many of the off-season moves have been given favorable grades because “they ain’t Baalke” and not truly scrutinized. I hope I’m wrong on all these counts and that Lynch and Shanahan have a cunning plan (think Black Adder) that will erase the stains of the last two seasons. I can’t help but think the Yorks still own the team and the “gurus” often turn out to be mirages.

      2. I wanted Kaaya, who I said I believe at worst will be a good backup. At worst. With potential to be a decent starter.

        1. Gotcha. Still thought you made it sound like his ceiling would be NFL backup.

          I already stated I’m a bit perplexed by the pick but the move up wasn’t that big a deal. It was a 7th rounder which isn’t that big an investment if they thought someone else had their eye on him.

          Will wait to see how it plays out as this will be the determinant factor in how the regime is viewed. If he succeeds in being a decent player then KS shines if not then he will lose luster.

  18. I come here cause I like Grants article..But the turds that populate this blog are the ones who give us the bad nationwide rep as the wine and cheese fans..I love the east bay ,hard working class residents ..Im glad the Niners moved south,you guys should just become Seahawks fans..
    You guys want to draft like them..dress like Seattle folks…Suburus and sandals…Drink wine at tailgates like them (losers)…Were better off with out the North Bay posers

    1. You make it very hard to say the University of Berkeley was in the wrong for suppressing freedom of speech.

  19. Just like Baalke a bunch of juking and jiving for future picks…Then….Wah wah wah..lol…here goes another wasted 3 years

    1. The Black Hole for you, LOL!
      Seriously, if you don’t like the team, coaches, management, fans and region, do yourself and everybody else a favor and find a team you like, go there, and live happily ever after.

  20. I can only think of one valid reason for the 49ers drafting C.J. Beathard; they felt sorry for teams like the Bears, Chiefs, and Texans because they reached for a QB prospect and wanted to show those teams that they could also make a WTFH reach for a QB as well.

    1. Drafting career back ups in the 3rd round…Stay classy J Lynch..
      Did you see the Steelers draft?Thats why their the Steelers and were the joke of the NFL

    2. Do you mean like the expansion jokes from Seattle did?
      The once most irrelevent team in sports who now laughs at us like the joke we are?

  21. Drafting career back ups in the 3rd round…Stay classy J Lynch..
    Did you see the Steelers draft?Thats why their the Steelers and were the joke of the NFL

  22. OK, this is a head scratcher. Peterman, Kaaya and Dobbs are still available.

    CJB was rated 215, so he could be available later. Do not know why the Niners got him at 104.

  23. All I could think is there are 2 under Center qbs & Shanny liked Bethard better than Peterman (Maybe the mph is better?). Hope we grab another (Kelly) later on too….we’ll see tomorrow

    1. “According to PFF’s Jeff Deeney, he led the nation in 2015 in playing under pressure, and was third in 2016.”
      Bingo, this is the kind of analysis I don’t see being discussed during the extensive pre-draft analysis in blogs and fan discussions. Accuracy under duress is the only one that matters in the NFL. How’s this guy’s lower body mechanics? Can he anticipate route development and throw receivers open? Or at least try to? I am curious to learn why folks think that Kaya and Peterman are better NFL prospects than Beatherd?

      1. From Barrows:
        “Kyle Shanahan liked Beathard because he played in a pro system at Iowa and showed a fearlessness in the pocket.”
        How did Peterman react to a collapsing pocket? Did he slide around, or run for hills? I watched a few Miami games over the last two seasons and noticed Kayya’s loss of composure when the pocket began to collapse.
        I recall in the 2016 Rose Bowl game where CMac and Hogan trampled all over the Hawkeyes, Beathered was harassed continually but I did notice that he kept his cool and did his best under difficult circumstances. I just looked up his numbers.: 21-33, 239 YDS, 2 TD, 1 INT.

  24. People are so upset with the pick. The kid runs a pro style offense on a bad team and still puts up numbers even though he was always beat up. I like the pick. I just see WCO in him.

    1. Kirk Ferentz’s program is just one of a handful of Power 5 programs where they actually coach these traits to the QB.

  25. I think it’s really funny that some people think this is a “bad” or wasted pick. You have to give one of the top offensive minds in the game some credit. Shanahan saw a bunch of stuff he liked from the tape. He also liked Peterman from his tape but liked Beathard a little more. Below is some of what Shanahan said in the Q and A tonight. The bottom line for me: There was no Second Coming in this draft, but KS thought enough of Beathard to want to commit to his development. I think that’s a big endorsement. As to where they picked him, if you wait too long for a guy, you’ll get what you pay for. This is true of any position but maybe more true for a QB.

    “I think those skills that I mentioned, anytime you’ve got a guy that’s fearless, I think he’s extremely intelligent, football means the world to him, he really works at it, he’s accurate and he can process and play the game very fast in the pocket, I think that gives you a chance to play in this league.”

  26. Here’s Rob Rang’s bottom line on Beathard (cbssports.com):

    IN OUR VIEW: Beathard does not bring the “wow” factor but in a relatively weak year for quarterbacks, his accuracy, mobility, grit and experience in a pro-style offense stand out. Provide him with some legitimate weapons to throw to and Beathard could surprise at the next level.

    This appears to have been the bottom line for Shanahan too.

  27. With Beathard Shanahan gets a player that has experience under center in a pro style offense. Meaning he doesn’t have to teach him from the ground up.
    Interestingly he also appears to have the arm strength that Peterman lacks. Which is a plus in a year when every prospect is heavily flawed and your only looking for developmentall traits.
    I’m not arguing it was a good pick, only trying to see the reasoning from Shanahan’s perspective.

  28. I like it….’bet his stats next season are above all the QBs drafted ahead of him….too many experts……

  29. “Whomever the Niners get with that second rounder next year will be much better than anyone they could have gotten with the 67th pick this year.”

    Completely baseless statement. There is absolutely no way to know that. But the odds are that the opposite is more likely to be true. Two reasons:

    1.) The 2017 draft was exceptionally deep in talent in the 2nd and 3rd rounds. The 2018 draft will almost certainly be leaner.

    2.) The Saints second round pick in 2018 will probably be at the bottom of the round, as the Saints are poised to have a better than .500 season. So the 49ers traded a high 3rd round pick in 2017 for a low 2nd round pick in 2018, likely moving up only 5 to 15 spots.

    In the end, this trade is probably a wash. The 49ers had as much chance of drafting a talented player at #67 this year as they will drafting a talented player at ~#57 next year. All they did was push the opportunity back a year. Given all the needs they have, why would they do this?

    1. No, that 2018 second round pick is pure gold. Gives the Niners more options, especially if they will target getting their next franchise QB by leveraging that pick.

      Lynch has done a solid job signing FAs, so all the holes are filled, and the Niners can now draft for depth with the BPA approach.

      Lynch has now done an incredible job in the draft, so trading back was a shrewd move. It will require patience, but I will believe in him, and his football acumen.

      With Carolina reloading, and the Falcons being a SB team, the Saints may become cellar dwellers, and that 2nd round pick could become a pick in the low 30’s.

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