49ers Met With Versatile Defender in Arik Armstead’s Hometown: Report

Arik Armstead

Getty Arik Armstead celebrates a sack on January 14, 2023 in Santa Clara.

Arik Armstead proved you can be from Sacramento and dominate across the way from the 916 — becoming one of the dominating pillars for the San Francisco 49ers on defense.

Could the 49ers tap into their neighbors to the east once again? One of the more versatile defensive prospects for this draft class spoke with the Niners.

Revealed by Chris Biderman of the Sacramento Bee on Friday, March 31, the franchise held a top 30 visit with Marte Mapu of Sacramento State. Mapu not only has a history of playing multiple positions including quarterback from his prep days, but is being viewed in a hybrid linebacker/safety role at the next level — perfect for a 49ers defense in search of one in the absence of Azeez Al-Shaair.

Mapu is currently nursing a pec injury which prevented him from competing at the combine or even his Pro Day. However, he’s got enough game film to cement the case he’s a highly-intriguing Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) prospect who dominated in Armstead’s city.

‘Scheme Versatile’ Defender Has Been Compared to Safety Star From NFC South

Mapu isn’t just any ordinary non-Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) prospect. He’s entering the league as a First-Team All-American by the Associated Press and earned the Big Sky Conference Defensive Player of the Year honor.

He’s also gone from lining up behind center, to wide receiver, to cornerback all the way to playing a box defender role since his prep days at Hawthorne High in the Los Angeles region. And even at Sacramento State, the Hornets made great use of his 6-foot-3, 216-pound frame as a line of scrimmage wrecker and ballhawk. Mapu not only tallied 76 tackles, but 6.5 of those stops were for loss of yards. He also snatched two interceptions. The Draft Network lauded his ability to play multiple stops and called him “scheme versatile” while also comparing his game to Carolina Panthers star safety Jeremy Chinn.

“Long, rangy, and physical are all the key adjectives to describe Mapu’s game,” TDN wrote. “Serving a plethora of roles for the Sacramento State Hornets, Mapu’s physical traits were used to their fullest extent, lining up primarily as a nickel safety but also consistently making appearances as a stack backer, force player, and even as a single high safety. His athleticism quickly jumps out on film, pairing elite closing speed with innate lower-body fluidity that allows him to be extremely effective in both the pass and run game.”

The website additionally wrote how Mapu’s Swiss Army-knife traits gives him an instant feel for the game, particularly versus the pass.

“Given the surplus of positions Mapu was asked to play at, it’s easy to notice his genuine feel for the game. In the pass game, he quickly diagnoses route concepts and does a good job of being disciplined in his coverage. It often seems like he has eyes in the back of his head, as he does a fantastic job of being able to cover his blind spots as a second-level coverage defender,” TDN wrote. “Given his physical tools and IQ, Mapu is a matchup nightmare for tight ends and slot receivers in both man and zone coverage.”

Mapu Thrived Against Power 5 Talent as Part of Pre-Draft Process

Before fans write off Mapu as an injured prospect who faced “lesser competition,” just know Mapu recently held his own against Southeastern Conference talent down in Mobile, Alabama.

Facing Alabama tight end Cameron Latu, it’s Mapu who forces the pass breakup in coverage:

There’s more: He’s taking on Eric Gray of Oklahoma — one of the faster backs in this draft class. And Mapu isn’t fooled by Gray’s stutter step and wins this matchup:

And that wasn’t the only personal win against the decisive and quick Sooners back. Mapu blows this play up during a padded session:

With Al-Shaair gone, depth and finding someone who can be in a safety/’backer role becomes a need for the 49ers. Mapu has become the Hornets’ most high-profile draft prospect…and could become convincing enough for the 49ers to add to their Sacramento representation alongside Armstead.

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