Why the 49ers Drafted Safety Malik Mustapha

The 49ers swung and miss on a safety in free agency, so they decided to get one in the NFL draft by taking Malik Mustapha. Here is why they drafted him.
Oct 14, 2023; Blacksburg, Virginia, USA; Wake Forest Demon Deacons defensive back Malik Mustapha (3)
Oct 14, 2023; Blacksburg, Virginia, USA; Wake Forest Demon Deacons defensive back Malik Mustapha (3) / Peter Casey-USA TODAY Sports

Safety was a position that the San Francisco 49ers were looking to add during free agency.

They swung and miss during that phase, so they decided to get one in the NFL draft. The 49ers elected to draft Wake Forest safety Malik Mustapha in the fourth round at pick No. 124.

General manager John Lynch explained why the 49ers drafted Mustapha during his final post-draft press conference.

"Just love the way he plays the game, plays our style," Lynch said. "We talk a lot about running to the football and getting there with bad intentions and Malik kind of embodies that. One of our favorite interviews, one of my favorite interviews at the Combine. He really handles himself well, but on the field plays the right way."

Mustapha is a fascinating pick by the 49ers. For starters, they aren't fully bought into Talanoa Hufanga. That is why they were looking to add a safety in free agency. Now, Mustapha is unlikely to dethrone Hufanga even if he is coming off of a torn ACL.

However, Mustapha looks to be the contingency following 2024 should the 49ers let Hufanga walk. Mustapha is predominant box safety. The guy is half safety, half linebacker practically with how he loves to float around and hit people. He also has some capability playing in the slot, so he has versatility.

"One thing with him, it was clear right away, all his testing indicated it, but when you talked with the young man, he understands football at a high level. He's built like an Adonis and he just plays football the right way in my mind and in our mind. And really cool to make him part of our team. He was a team captain at Wake Forest and we liked everything he brought to the table.”

My editor Grant Cohn compared Mustapha to Jimmie Ward, and I'm now starting to see it. A box safety who can tackle viciously with capability of playing in the slot. All Mustapha needs to get down is playing better high-coverage, but the 49ers might not even need him for that with Ji'Ayir Brown having it covered.

Either way, it feels like the 49ers might've found a solid player for years to come.

Jose Sanchez