Editor's note: Eric Crocker is a former AFL/NFL cornerback who now specializes in the defensive back position. This is part of a series in which he'll be providing a unique perspective on DB options for the 49ers.
Kevin Toliver II - JR, LSU
Ht/wt: 6-foot-3, 204 lbs.
2017: 28 tackles, 1 interception, 10 PBU, 1 sack, 2 FF
Every offseason I have these random draft crushes. In 2016 it was Michael Thomas of Ohio State. For the life of me I could not figure out why he was projected to go in the second round. Leading up to the 2017 draft it was Colorado's Ahkello Witherspoon, the long, athletic cornerback who I thought would be a perfect fit for the 49ers' defensive scheme.
This year, while I understand why he is a draft sleeper, my official crush of the 2018 class is Kevin Toliver II, a 6-foot-3, 204-pound cornerback out of LSU.
Coming out of high school, Toliver was the No. 1-ranked cornerback in the nation. Because of injuries and other unknown reasons, Toliver’s time on the field was limited. Junior season he became more of a nickel defensive back with Donte Jackson stepping into more of an every-down role. So you might be asking yourself, “why would the 49ers want this kid?”
Well, Toliver is the Josh Allen (Wyoming) of cornerbacks. Size, speed and ability that is perfect for the 49ers' scheme if he can be more consistent.
Toliver possesses some of the best press technique I’ve seen in recent years. As I said in the piece on Jacksonville State's Siran Neal, you want your cornerbacks to be patient and remain square at the line of scrimmage, making the receiver work laterally.
Nobody works this technique better than Toliver.
Down the field, Toliver is very pesky, using his large frame to mirror receivers and give them no space. A lot of the time in the 49ers' scheme the cornerbacks are on islands downfield. The ability to read receivers down, have good eye discipline and make a play on the ball are key.
In the game against Florida, a play that had no significance at all stood out to me most. The receiver was lined up off the ball on the outside creating space of about three yards. Toliver used what I call a “leverage step,” helping him keep his inside relationship to the receiver while staying square. He then got hands on the receiver and patiently read the receiver down.
This technique is very difficult but Toliver makes it look routine.
Toliver has shown the ability to to play off coverage, but it’s definitely not his strong suit. Against Alabama he was beat when forced into an off-coverage situation guarding Calvin Ridley. Because of his big body, smaller quicker receivers may give him problems if he can’t get hands on them at the line of scrimmage. But a couple times against Auburn he showed the ability to close quick on receivers from a shuffle.
Fit with 49ers:
In short, Toliver has a great skillset that fits the 49ers needs. He possesses the size, speed and technique to be a really good cornerback at the next level. A mid-round flyer on Toliver with a plan to develop him and bring more consistency to his game can pay off tremendously for the 49ers.
Media courtesy USA Today Sports Images