Will Weathersby's mishap make him available to SF?

Dennis Erickson has the highest regard for Dennis Weathersby, both personally and as a football player. The 49ers' new coach didn't expect to have much of a shot at acquiring the All-American cornerback in this weekend's NFL draft, but in a twist of fate and irony, Weathersby's recent tragedy is expected to send him plummeting down draft boards and could make him available to San Francisco in the early middle rounds, where the Niners would seriously consider grabbing him.

Weathersby is considered a blue-chip prospect and one of the top four cornerbacks in the draft. But that was before last weekend, when Weathersby's status was put in question after he was injured in a drive-by shooting near his home in a Los Angeles suburb.

Weathersby, who started the past four years for Erickson at Oregon State, did not sustain life-threatening injuries and he since has been released from the hospital. He was shot in the back, below the lungs, and the bullet passed through his torso, lodging in his forearm. He is expected to be cleared to resume football-related activities in as soon as six weeks.

But the shooting no doubt will scare off several teams that had Weathersby projected as a late first-round or early second-round selection.

"I'll be very surprised if he doesn't drop in the draft," Niners general manager Terry Donahue said. "I think his medical condition will warrant a decline in his draft status. But I think everybody is optimistic and very hopeful that he'll have a full recovery and be a totally healthy and complete player. But I think it will have an effect."

That could be positive for the 49ers, who would take a long look at Weathersby if he still is around when they pick in the second round with the No. 57 overall selection. Cornerback is not one of the team's top priorities in this year's draft, but it falls into the next tier of needs, and the team would look to snatch Weathersby if he starts sliding past the middle of the first 100 picks, particularly considering Erickson's association with him.

"I have spent the last four years with Dennis and he is one of the greatest kids I have coached in my career," Erickson said. "He was a three-time Academic All-American and is just a good person. Dennis was never in any trouble during our four years together. It sounds like he was in the wrong place at the wrong time. It's very unfortunate how it happened and what happened. But from what I understand, he's supposed to be completely healthy within six to eight weeks. My concern is for his health and well-being."

Despite the team's other needs, Weathersby might be difficult to pass up if he still is available in the second round. At 6-foot-1 and 206 pounds, he is one of the biggest cover corners in the draft, and he also displayed impressive 4.39-second speed in the 40-yard dash in a late February workout. He had five interceptions for the Beavers last season - even though opponents attempted to avoid his area - and completed his college career with 56 passes defensed.

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