No NFL team is going to set its depth chart in stone in the middle of May. Coaching staffs are always going to promote competition in order to find their 22 best players to start on each side of the ball. For the 49ers they don’t have a ton of openings for starting spots, and it appears one of their defensive vacancies has already been filled.
Jimmie Ward’s exit in free agency left the nickel cornerback spot open on the 49ers’ depth chart. Deommodore Lenoir started last season there before kicking outside when Emmanuel Moseley tore his ACL. Lenoir is now a favorite to start outside across from Charvarius Ward, leaving the slot as a question mark. Defensive coordinator Steve Wilks on Friday made it seem as though the team answered that question in free agency when they added former Falcons CB Isaiah Oliver.
“Oliver is someone that I had the opportunity to go against being in that division,” Wilks said. “And we didn’t know exactly what was going to happen in free agency with Jimmie (Ward) and when that didn’t happen, we wanted to make sure that we sort of got the best nickel in free agency and that’s what we went out and did, so I’m excited about Oliver. He’s long, he’s physical, can tackle, can cover, he’s going to be a good blitzer for us, everything that we do within this defense.”
Oliver struggled some in his first couple years after the Falcons selected him in the second round of the 2018 draft. His career arc shifted dramatically though when they moved him into the slot. Since then he’s been an ascending player whose biggest hiccup was a torn ACL that cut his 2021 short after four games.
The team will certainly leave the door open for Lenoir to move back inside if someone steps up and takes the starting outside CB job. They’ll also have second-year CB Samuel Womack in the mix. He won the starting nickel job out of camp last year before relinquishing it to Lenoir after two games.
However, it looks like they prioritized filling that hole in their depth chart via free agency when they added Oliver. His spot isn’t set in stone just yet, but he’s firmly in the driver’s seat going into OTAs.