LSU’s Patrick Peterson and … Ronnie Lott?

The NFL Network’s Mike Mayock thinks LSU cornerback Patrick Peterson is a top-10 draft pick who could eventually transition into an All-Pro safety.

Sound familiar? OK, those who are thinking – wow, a modern-day Ronnie Lott! – take a bow (or go decleat somebody in honor of Lott, who started his career at cornerback.)

Now, no one is ready to predict Peterson will join Lott, the No. 8 pick in the 1981 draft, in the Hall of Fame. But there are a few noted draft analysts who are predicting Peterson will follow Lott’s path from college to San Francisco: In their latest mock drafts, ESPN’s Mel Kiper and Todd McShay both have the 49ers selecting Peterson with the No. 7 pick.

For his part, Mayock, a star safety at Boston College who played two seasons in the NFL, sees Peterson as “potentially a top-10 pick” who could get snapped up by the Bills, who occupy the No. 3 spot. Mayock also envisions the 6-1, 222-pound Peterson possibly making a position change during his career due to his size.

“Ultimately he might be best served as a safety,” Mayock said in national conference call today in advance of next week’s NFL Combine. “I think he can play corner, but down the road a little bit, because he’s a big, strong tough guy that can run, I think he might be an All-Pro safety.”

Mayock said Peterson plays with some “stiffness” and would be best-suited to play in a defense that allows him to get up in press coverage, something the Niners are expected to feature in defensive coordinator Vic Fangio’s aggressive 3-4 scheme.

“Whenever you see a corner of his size ‑‑ you’re talking about plus or minus 220‑pound corner ‑‑ he’s got a little bit of stiffness to him that the longer, bigger corners always do or usually do,” Mayock said. “So he’s most comfortable in press‑man.  If you try to play him in off‑man, he’s going to struggle a little bit.  So I believe you need a team that’s going to let him press, get up in your face, knock him out at the line of scrimmage and turn and run.”

I asked Mayock if he could think of another NFL corner similar to Peterson in size. He responded by saying he’d only seen Peterson on film. He’ll get his first up-close look at the combine.

“I’m anxious to see what Patrick Peterson looks like,” he said. “I’m also amazed how well he returns punts and kickoffs for his size.  Just tells you what a great athlete he is.”

Indeed, Peterson began returning punts and kickoffs as a junior this past season. In his first game against North Carolina, he had 257 return yards, which ranks second in SEC history. Most impressive? He had 244 of those yards in the first two quarters before leg cramps limited him to one punt return in the second half.

Peterson ranked ninth in the nation in kickoff returns (29.1 yards) and fourth nationally in punt returns (16.1). He was the only Division I player to rank among the top-10 in both categories.

Peterson, who has run the 40-yard dash in 4.37 seconds, says he wants to run a 4.2 at the combine.

Here’s guessing if he pulls that off, he’ll also be off the board when the 49ers pick at No. 7.

• Here’s Kiper’s thoughts on Peterson in his Mock Draft 2.0, which debuted this week:

“San Francisco has other needs — in fact, I count three ahead of cornerback — but Peterson would be too much to pass up here in terms of talent. A freakish athlete, he immediately steps in as a starter at corner, moving that to a position of strength for the Niners. Peterson also adds a dangerous element in the return game. A corner with safety size, Peterson won’t need the NFL combine to assure evaluators of his physical skills.”

• Of the roughly 10.7 million mock drafts circulating, at least a few have had the Broncos taking Peterson with the No. 2 pick. For what it’s worth, Denver is trying to re-sign Pro Bowl cornerback Champ Bailey, 32, who is expected to be an unrestricted free agent (story here). If Bailey stays with the Broncos, Denver might look elsewhere with the second overall pick.

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