Coming out of the University of Miami as a 7th-round pick, there were little to no expectations for Adrian Colbert to make an impact on the 49ers' roster. In fact, one could argue that undrafted rookie free agent Lorenzo James had more hype heading into the 2017 season than Colbert did.
Like Jimmie Ward, there were immediately questions on what position Colbert would play. At 6-foot-2, 205 pounds, Colbert fit the mold of what the 49ers look for at cornerback. His 4.40 40-yard dash speed at his size made him worth a flier.
When you are drafted in the 7th round, you need a little luck to get on the field. Eric Reid, Jimmie Ward and Jaquiski Tartt were the projected safeties heading into the season. All three of those guys sustained injuries at some point during the year, including season-enders to Ward and Tartt.
In Week 10, Colbert received his first career NFL start, and the rookie did not disappoint. As I stated in the Ward write up, Seattle Seahawks free safety Earl Thomas set the bar high for the single-high safeties across the league with his ability to play sideline to sideline, as well as make his presence felt around the line of scrimmage. Colbert flashed those same traits.
The first thing that stood out to me was his ability to make plays around the line of scrimmage from a deep safety position. It started in the preseason when he came downhill on Chargers running back Kenjon Barner, jarring the ball loose.
The forced fumbles around the line of scrimmage didn’t stop there.
In Week 14 vs. the Houston Texans, Colbert was able to dislodge the ball from All-Pro receiver DeAndre Hopkins.
Giants second-year receiver Sterling Shepard was on the wrong end of one of these crushing blows as well. Colbert using instincts came from a deep safety position to stop Shepard for a minimal gain.
On several occasions Colbert was able to separate the ball from receivers downfield as well. His speed and instincts allow him to correctly diagnose where the ball is going, and use his speed and hard-hitting abilities to knock the ball away from receivers.
Against the Texans on a broken play, he made up for a miscommunication by 49er defensive backs, and was able contest a pass intended for former 49ers wide receiver DeAndrew White.
The one thing that Colbert didn’t log into the stat book was an interception. He had a near interception in Week 15 against the Jacksonville Jaguars, but a cast on the hand of his broken thumb made it difficult for him to collect his first career pick. A positive you can take away from that play is, once again, he was in position to take the ball away.
Fit with 49ers:
With Jimmie Ward’s fully guaranteed contract of over $8 million, it will be an uphill battle for Colbert to be named starter heading into the 2018 season. His film showed everything you would like to see from a single-high safety. And the addition of Richard Sherman—and him sharing his knowledge of the system and secrets to breaking down film and understanding route concepts—will only help Colbert in his progression.
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