Is the 49ers Secondary the Worst in the NFL?

Wide receiver DeSean Jackson is going to sign with the Redskins, so the most important date left on the off-season calendar for the faithful is the start of the 2014 NFL Draft on May 8th. With half their starting secondary off to less green pastures, the 49ers must land two quality cornerbacks that can start from Day 1 if they are to compete within their division in 2014.

49ers’ General Manager Trent Baalke is a “trusted agent” in the draft room, but regardless of past success, he has whiffed on entire drafts (2012) in the past. The 49ers are never going to win a Super Bowl via free agency – few rarely do. I will say this – there is absolutely no room for error in the 2014 NFL Draft for the Red and Gold.

As of today (4/1/2014), the 49ers secondary* is as follows:

* Data used in this report is provided by Pro Football Focus (subscription required)


1) Tramaine Brock – Rated 15 of 199; 678 snaps played.

2.) Chris Culliver – Did not play in 2013 (ACL).

3.) Eric Wright – Rated 55 of 199; 120 snaps played.

4.) Perrish Cox – Rated 110 of 199; 70 snaps played.

5.) Chris Cook – Rated 184 of 199; 753 snaps played.

6.) Darryl Morris – Rated 85 of 199; 7 snaps played.

7.) Dax Swanson – No data – Did not play a single snap in 2013


1.) Eric Reid Jr. – Rated 16 of 171; 1009 snaps played.

2. Antoine Bethea – Rated 133 of 171; 1048 snaps played.

3. C.J. Spillman – Rated 42 of 171; 70 snaps played.

4.) Craig Dahl – Rated 94 of 171; 89 snaps played.


First and foremost, Chris Culliver will likely serve jail time for his recent run-in with the law, making his production a complete unknown. Regardless of if he serves jail time or not, he will be suspended by the league and or the 49ers.

If it were not for Tramaine Brock and Eric Reid Jr., one could make the argument that this is (currently) the worst secondary in the NFL. Gone are the steadying presences of Carlos Rogers, Tarell Brown and Donte Whitner. Present is a group of wildly unsuccessful players that will need to have their best seasons to date to make this secondary once again formidable. Hopefully defensive coordinator Vic Fangio takes his contract extension seriously (he does), because 2014 will be his most trying season to date.

While many view the signing of Bethea as an move equal to retaining Whitner, the data suggests otherwise. Whitner – a safety known for being weak in coverage – had a significantly better pass coverage rating than Bethea  (+10.7 vs. -2.9) in 2013. I expect Bethea to improve upon last season’s numbers, but regardless, it remains to be seen. We can all speculate but numbers rarely lie.

I want to hear your feedback. If you want to see how I view the 49ers upcoming draft, please follow this link. Show some engagement – prove to me that you have the salt to know what it takes to again make this secondary a powerhouse. Thanks for reading.




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  1. jamichealturner says

    This article is a joke, you have no idea what your talking about. The secondary got younger, bigger and faster. Whitner had a solid year in coverage last year, but what about his horrible year in coverage the year before? Carlos Rogers is to old, and doesn’t have enough quick twitch movements to play the nickel anymore. Chris Culliver’s recent legal trouble do complicate things at left corner, but that’s just 1 piece of a 5 man puzzle. Did you not notice the year Brock had last year? Did you forget how solid parrish cox was in the nickel in those 2 playoff games he started? Cox or E. Wright can easily fill Carlos Rodgers role in the nickel, Brock is the right corner, a guy with good size and great speed. Culliver is even bigger and faster than Brock, and I guess your memory doesn’t extend far back enough to remember when Culliver turned Jordy Nelson into a non factor, twice. Culliver repeatedly took on the opposing teams best wr’s as a rookie. He would of took Rogers job last season, but he got hurt in camp. E. Ried is still the free safety, and plz stop acting like Bethea is some kind of downgrade to Whitner. Whitner was a liability in coverage in 2012, solid in 2013, and now all of sudden we can’t live without him? Cullivers legal situation does call for a little concern as we wait to find out what will happen, but like I said that’s just 1 position. You were in a drama queen mode when you wrote this article, and next season when the secondary is flying around making plays, you’ll pretend you knew it would happen all along.

  2. alecasnow says

    I agree that there are some risk with our current secondary, however Whitner’s numbers for last season were dramatically improved because of the play from Reid. Whitner still made some horrific chances on routes to the runner or receiver and was exposed on occasion. Bethea has played in a different system but is better at the tasks required by Fangio’s defense.
    Culliver – issue’s with legal, missing time – NOT GOOD!!

    How anyone doesn’t see how badly Rogers played, doesn’t understand football… go back and watch the film on him, he was constantly behind the receiver trying to make up space and as a slot receiver once you’re behind – TOAST. It’s been like that for two years now… when he showed up it was a new defensive scheme and he was trying to get paid, and he was a monster – I’ll agree to that, but not much more than that.

    We’re one secondary player away from being a great secondary and that will hopefully be drawn out through competition between players who will be drafted, current players or players brought in via free agency. I’m not too worried about Cook, or Dahl – their contracts are small and they can make it up on ST’s.

    I look forward to a successful season!

  3. JimA1 says

    I remember Bill Walsh’s DBs before Ronnie Lott.  They were pretty terrible.   In the 81 draft, he used 4 of his 1st five picks to select Lott, Eric Wright, Carlton Williamson and Lynn Thomas.  The rest is history so to speak.  I’d like to see Harbaugh and Baalke do the same thing this year.  Pick the best 3 corners available and the best Safety available with their 1st 4 picks.  Trade up the remaining 7 to make these DB picks as high as possible.  Reid was a great cover safety.  Whitner not so much.  I also like Brock.  He’s a winner.  Carlos Rogers wasn’t that good a cover corner last year.  We won’t miss him.  The remaining current DBs have a lot to prove.  And don’t forget, the departees were the same ones who let the team down in the NFC game against Atlanta and the Super Bowl.

  4. 49erslife says

    JimA1 Great analysis, Jim, especially with Walsh and the 81 Draft – you’re an obvious Red and Gold Faithful. I like your ideas, and tend to agree. I don’t view WR as a dire need this season like many do. I would much rather prefer to snag two top CB’s and at least one S in this draft, maybe even a solid center and guard that may fill-in should we not sign Iupati next season. Baalke has a ton of options this season, but we all know that he cannot afford to make mistakes in this draft. Although the 49ers are loaded, the window for winning a Super Bowl for the likes of Frank Gore and Vernon Davis is closing fast. Great stuff !

  5. 49erslife says

    alecasnow Nice stuff, and completely agree with Rogers. As he aged, he started allowing more space between himself and his opposition, staying flat-footed and getting roasted on the majority of routes. All one has to do is watch Seahawks’ Jermaine Kearse TD on 4th and 7 in last year’s NFC Championship game. He was looking for help that wasn’t there and wasn’t even in his backpedal until Kearse was well behind him. Love what he did for two seasons, but glad to see him in Oakland. There’s talk of the 49ers potentially coupling Culliver with a late round pick in order to move up but we shall see. Thanks for the input !!

  6. 49erslife says

    jamichealturner You’re calling me out yet you misspell the majority of names on this list. It’s called an opinion. Learn how to disagree with class. Never once said Brock wasn’t quality, but nobody on that list (for CB’s) besides Cook even played last season. Cook was deemed as the worst CB in the league last year as well – food for thought. And where’s your memory smart guy? We’re supposed to look the other way on Culliver’s off-the-field issues because of one game? Glad our hopes aren’t in your hands. The point of this article (which you clearly missed) is to show that if we don’t succeed in the draft, our secondary is in trouble. You’re all venom and dreams buddy, as none of your points are valid.

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