Niners Live is providing a silver lining to the injury-riddled 2017 season. Down two safeties, Jimmie Ward and Jaquiski Tartt, due to season-ending injuries, seventh-round pick Adrian Colbert was forced into the starting line-up and impressed. So much so General Manager John Lynch has recently said Colbert could change their approach at the safety positions based on his continued showing of elite skills and play. Colbert has played with “Extreme Violence” and displayed the range and instincts to excel at the single-high free safety position in the 49ers’ 4-3 under defense.
Adrian Colbert, 6’2 205 lbs., proved in his first NFL start to the 49ers’ coaching staff and a fan base that he can be a positive contributor on defense and that he’s tough as nails. The former Miami Hurricane displayed sideline to sideline speed, big hitting ability, and ball skills. More importantly, Colbert broke his thumb on the first defensive series but played the entire game. He was a standout on defense who contributed big plays to help the 49ers to their first victory of the season.
Good Problem to Have
With the rise of Colbert, the 49ers have four quality options at safety heading into the 2018 season (Ward, Tartt, Eric Reid and Colbert). If the team doesn’t re-sign Reid, they will have three safeties with starting experience. Colbert would be the backup free and strong safety. Another option for the team is to re-sign Reid and permanently move him to linebacker, but his future with the team seems in doubt. Colbert will provide quality depth and be a force to be reckoned with on special team’s at a cheap price for the next three season’s worst case scenario.
His Up SIDE
Colbert’s skill set is a perfect match for the single-high free safety position in the 49ers’ 4-3 under defense. He has the speed to break off balls from sideline to sideline and he loves contact. He’s a factor in the pass and run game. Defensive Coordinator Robert Saleh has a player he can groom and mold into the prototype free safety in his future defensive units.
Remember those options we talk about?
Colbert’s emergence gives the 49ers plenty of options heading into 2018 with Reid heading to free agency and Ward playing on a 5th-year option worth $8.526 million. The 49ers could utilize Ward in a multitude of ways and he could be a jack of all trades on defense if they chose to do so. Ward is a talented and hardworking player, but has been injury prone since entering the NFL. Ward’s past two seasons have ended on injured reserve list. Colbert is bigger than Ward, 5’11 193 lbs., and is a better match up against tight ends or tall receivers. Both are aggressive tacklers, but Colbert’s weight advantage gives his hits more thump.
Stats to know: Colbert’s overall Pro Football Focus grade is 79.1, coverage 76.7, run defense 79.0 and 58.3 in pass rush on 211 total snaps played on defense.
I’ll simply close with this
The Emergence of Adrian Colbert is a good problem for the 49ers to have because it gives the team depth, contract extension options, and a promising brick in the new foundation of the John Lynch and Kyle Shanahan regime. He is versatile, being able to play both safety positions and cornerback. If he continues to improve his game he will be a solid starter or even Pro Bowler at free safety. In a rebuilding season, the 49ers found a gem in a seventh-round pick who could be a full-time starter his second year in the league.
Lastly, Colbert as aforementioned will be in the second year of a seventh-round pick rookie contract, which will be millions of dollars cheaper than the extension that could be potentially given to Ward. That is tremendous value for a seventh-round pick. EYES WIDE OPEN
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All records, statistics, and accolades are courtesy of Pro-Football-Reference.com, Pro Football Focus, 49ers.com, ESPN.com, NFL.com unless otherwise indicated. Author Jimi Payne Staff Writer at Niners live. Co-Author, Content Creator, Editor, Sequoia Sims