• Nicholas McGee

Taylor and Redmond potentially setting up slot position battles

Having undergone such a drastic overhaul this offseason, it was always likely there would be position battles at a plethora of spots on the San Francisco 49ers' roster. But two roles that seemed fairly secure were slot receiver and slot cornerback.

Three days into training camp and to label those positions as settled would be wildly presumptuous.

Jeremy Kerley entered camp as the top candidate for slot receiver, while K'Waun Williams, one of many free-agent acquisitions made by general manager John Lynch, was seen as the leading in the clubhouse to be the starting nickel corner.

With a triumvirate of practices in the books, Kerley and Williams should now be at least looking over their shoulders after impressive starts to the camp by rookie wideout Trent Taylor and second-year corner Will Redmond.

Taylor and Redmond have been going against each other a lot in the early practices and both shone on Saturday, per KNBR's Kevin Jones.

Former Louisiana Tech receiver Taylor had six combined catches in the 11-on-11 and 7-on-7 drills, according to Jones, with 49ers.com's Joe Fann pointing out that one of those receptions was a 25-yard catch on a deep crossing route.

Jones praised Taylor for his polished route-running and explosiveness with the ball in his hands but Redmond, who missed his entire rookie year due to injury after becoming yet another prospect who former GM Trent Baalke took a chance despite a torn ACL, has also shown flashes of promise.

NFL.com's Daniel Jeremiah felt Redmond could have snuck into the first round in 2016 had he been healthy and the former Mississippi State defender caught the eye on day two with a diving pass breakup and a fumble recovery.

However, both Taylor and Redmond are competing with the second and third-stringers and will need to go some way to displace Kerley and Williams.

Kerley was the 49ers' best receiver last year with 667 yards and three touchdowns on 64 receptions and he is not the only wideout in Taylor's way, with Aldrick Robinson also contending for snaps in the slot.

Williams, meanwhile, is familiar with defensive backs coach Jeff Hafley having worked with him in college at Pitt and during his time with the Cleveland Browns, for whom he produced some very impressive performances before missing the 2016 season because of injury.

Per Pro Football Focus, between 2014 and 2015 Williams allowed just 0.94 yards per cover snap when playing in the slot for the Browns.

It is clear Kerley and Williams are the clear front-runners at slot receiver and corner but, for a team undergoing such a significant rebuild, few players are locks and neither of that pair can be considered as such. And, if Taylor and Redmond continue to make strides, they may set up position battles that few 49ers observers expected.

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