The 49ers’ Draft Day Drama: Unveiling Why Malik Mustapha Became Their Fourth Round Gem.

NCAA Football: North Carolina State at Wake Forest

The San Francisco 49ers addressed safety in the fourth round of the 2024 NFL Draft when they selected Wake Forest safety Malik Mustapha, adding depth to the position.

Mustapha, a 5’10, 210-pound safety, was a player that several analysts saw as a value pick, and he provides some much-needed depth for the 49ers, who have Talanoa Hufanga recovering from a torn ACL injury and 2023 third-rounder Ji’Ayir Brown as their top options at the position.

What led the 49ers to ultimately take him in the fourth round and how does he fit the team?

It started all with the pre-draft process, where Mustapha’s lone formal meeting at the 2024 NFL Combine was with the 49ers.

“I had my only formal meeting with them at the combine,” Mustapha said about the 49ers after the draft. “It was awesome being able to meet John Lynch obviously, and the whole staff. Even Frank Gore was in there. He’s someone that I grew up watching and it was kind of a starstruck moment there.”

“But it was definitely a good meeting with them, talking about my life and things like that. And throughout the process, talking to scouts post-combine. So yeah, those were my interactions with the 49ers leading up to the draft.”

Mustapha was a player that many compared to Talanoa Hufanga as a downhill, undersized safety who worked well at the line of scrimmage, which fits the 49ers style.

“I’m a downhill, speed, tenacity, ballplayer that plays with a lot of fire,” Mustapha shared. “I’m able to line up pretty much everywhere. Just watching the film, I’m able to impact the game on all levels of the football. I’m pretty sure the 49ers have a plan for me. I really feel comfortable in a lot of spots, being able to show that versatility during my time at Wake Forest.”

In fact, Mustapha revealed he even watched Hufanga’s film as he developed at Wake Forest, which helped him become a better “eraser”.

“I feel like I fit the model [of being an eraser] perfectly,” Mustapha said. “It’s something that I emphasized a lot when I was playing defense at Wake Forest. Being able to be coached by good coaches that helped my playing ability at the next level, is something that’s going to help me become more of an eraser. Looking at film from guys like [S Talanoa] Hufanga is something that I looked at a lot during my time at Wake Forest, picking up gems from him as well.”

“He’s one of the best erasers in the game of football and I know that learning from him and then picking up where he left off and just learning from the veteran guys there and earning the respect of everybody will help me to enhance my playing ability as well.”

But, in addition to his capabilities in the box, Mustapha showcased versatility at Wake Forest, which was something he took pride in as he prepared for the NFL.

“We called that the Panther package,” Mustapha said about his versatile role on third downs at Wake Forest. “Going into the game, there were different tasks, depending on the different teams. So, it was either I had to spy the quarterback or, sometimes I would be with the defensive front, running stunts. They always had a key factored on me offensively when identifying me. So, there were a lot of spots I was put in.”

“Being at the linebacker depth, and then disguising, where I would have to burst to play single-high coverage, and even an extra nickel spot. There were a lot of hats that I wore during that third down package. Just speaking to my versatility and being able to, like I said, impact on different levels of the football. So, it was a game plan adjustment for sure, but it was something that I took pride in.”

As a rookie, Mustapha may not see as many snaps as a safety, as the fourth-rounder will likely be behind Hufanga and Brown during the upcoming season. Still, he anticipates being a contributor on special teams, which was another aspect he took pride in during his time at Wake Forest.

“Oh yeah, I did a lot [of special teams at Wake Forest],” Mustapha said. “I was coming from Richmond, so when I transferred to Wake, obviously I had to earn the respect of the coaches and I knew I could do that on special teams. So, I wasn’t playing defensive reps at first, and I took pride in special teams day in and day out, week in and week out. So, running down on kickoff, running down on punt, doing different things like that. Just impacting the game when I can help my team pin the ball underneath the 10-yard line at all three levels of the football game that you can impact.”

“Special teams was the number one goal for me and going into the 49ers, I’m going to have to do the same thing. I take pride in that, and I know the opportunity is just impacting the game. It’s something that I’ll take a lot of pride in. So, I definitely don’t shy away from social teams.”

The 49ers needed to address the safety position in this past draft, as Hufanga will be an unrestricted free agent next offseason. Additionally, San Francisco didn’t have a clear-cut option behind their two starters, and they’ve faced injuries at safety over the past few seasons.

Now, with Mustapha in the fold, San Francisco has a player who fits their system well, and could step into a bigger role down the line should Hufanga get a substantial deal in free agency next year.


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