Why Kiper Jr. ridiculed 49ers picking Kentucky CB Phillips at 63.

After improving their offensive line in the first round of the 2024 NFL Draft, ESPN senior analyst Mel Kiper predicts that the 49ers will focus on defense with the No. 63 overall pick.  

On Thursday, Kiper voiced his conviction that San Francisco might address their nickel-back position with the availability of Kentucky cornerback Andru Phillips, who is expected to be selected by the Warriors in the second round.  

Everything that he has been, is, and has the potential to be is precisely that. "Exterior, slot, nickel," Kiper told the group through video chat. Although Dru Phillips is a physical cornerback, he did not record any interceptions while playing for Kentucky. He steadily improved. His physical attributes were impressive; he had a 42-inch vertical, ran well, and performed admirably on the field. It worked with Dru Philips, as you usually enjoy doing when you test work with tape.  

Even after signing Rock Ya-Sin to a one-year free agent contract on Thursday, the 49ers will likely seek out defensive backfield additions. Ya-Sin, a former Baltimore Ravens cornerback, lacks experience playing inside, so the team will need to address that. Of Ya- 1,015 snaps last season, only 35 involved him in a slot formation.  

The 49ers' starting cornerbacks are Charvarius Ward and Deommodore Lenoir. Lenoir can play in the slot, but last season, San Francisco's defense was weak when he played there.  

Phillips has a ton of playing experience, ranking 12th in PFF.com's defensive backs draft class for 2024. In 2023, he had 47 tackles (14 solo) and 6 pass breakups. He played 709 defensive snaps, 223 of them in the slot, and gave up 39 passes on 58 targets, for 438 yards and four scores. Phillips had two seasons in which he did not allow a touchdown.  

"That's why some have [Phillips] in the fourth round," added Kiper. It seems to me that it's far too late. I have the 49ers drafting him late in the game, which would help them with a need they had  

"Getting that offensive tackle at the end of the first solidifies that area of concern there," said Kiper. "Then they could always still solidify down the line if they want and add another receiver, but they get those two needs defined early, end those needs early, get it out of the way, get the corner and get the offensive lineman." Even though Phillips will be on the board at No.63, Kiper thinks Michigan's Mike Sainristil might equally fill the 49ers' requirement.  

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