49ers CB is a ‘Huge A part of us Shifting Ahead,’ GM Says
It was two years ago in Indianapolis that San Francisco 49ers general manager John Lynch spotted one of his late-round finds — one that would eventually work its way into the starting lineup and become a central part of the league’s best defense last season .
Now in 2023 and back in Indy for the NFL Scouting Combine, Lynch has revealed that fifth-round cornerback Deommodore Lenoir “will be a big part of us as we move forward.”
Lynch addressed the media at the annual showcase of NFL draft hopes. Lenoir came to Lucas Oil Field as a 5-foot-11 corner from Oregon two years ago in hopes that a GM or NFL team would take notice of his all-round ability. Since then, Lenoir has gone on to become one of the 49ers’ most valuable late-round finishes in that 21st league, becoming king of interceptors during the 49ers’ playoff run of the 2022 season. Lynch himself gushed about the making of Pick #172.
“One of my favorite things as a player, now as general manager, is watching players make breakthroughs,” said Lynch, transcribed by 49ers Webzone. “I think this has been a breakthrough year for Deommodore. We believed in him as a new player. It’s a difficult position to play. It is a difficult position to be thrown into the fire.”
Lenoir showed skills the 49ers drafted him for
When Lenoir got into the league, his draft rating from nfl.com’s Lance Zierlein described him as a “compact corner with short arms but who often makes up for that with a high level of physicality.” He also had the toughness and physicality, wide Challenging receivers in the first five yards and then bullying at the catch point.
But Zierlein emphasized another tidbit: “Ball skills like a wideout with a jump climax and one-handed grab.”
And that came in handy against the Dallas Cowboys when his “hyena instinct” kicked in against Michael Gallup. But Lynch revealed what he thought was the “coolest” part of Lenoir’s development.
“The coolest thing about him is that he sort of broke through that, and it wasn’t easy. There’s another corner on the other side in Mooney [Charvarius Ward] that people really respect. So they wanted to go after the other guy,” Lynch said.
And as teams threw away from Ward, Lenoir led SF in picks in the playoffs. And despite losing in the NFC title game, Lenoir and Ward picked up two 1,000-yard receivers in DeVonta Smith and AJ Brown and delivered this result: A combined two catches for 16 yards on their side’s six goals.
“[Lenoir] he’s withstood some adversity where people have come after him and the only way to put out that fire is to start playing,” Lynch said. “And in the end, in some cases, I wasn’t so sure that they were going to throw it at Mooney. I think that says a lot about Deommodore’s mental and physical strength.”
Lynch also believes the Oregon star and fifth-round find can only add more versatility to the 49ers’ defense going forward.
“The coolest thing is that he has some flexibility in where he can play outside and inside, so he gives us a lot of versatility there. We are really proud of the young man. He’s going to be a big part of us to move forward,” Lynch announced.
49ers want to lure back UFA DB
Meanwhile, in the defensive backroom, Lynch discussed the future of a 49ers unrestricted free agent. He believes Tashaun Gipson has one more season ahead of him with the 49ers.
“I think he wants to play and we’d love to have him back,” Lynch said of The Athletic’s David Lombardi.
Gipson was originally a practice team, signing before moving into one of the starting spots alongside Talanoa Hufanga. Gipson responded by delivering five interceptions with a team-high during the regular season and delivering eight most pass breakups for the Houston Texans since 2019.
The veteran was on a one-year, $1.12 million contract with the 49ers and will be 33 in August.