It’s very difficult to judge a draft after just one season and that holds true when looking at the results of the San Francisco 49ers’ 2013 haul. They seem to have hit a homerun with their first round selection but have many players who did not get much of a look, mainly due to injuries. There is a lot of promise in this class and 2014 should start to shed light on exactly what the team has in the players they selected.
Eric Reid, Safety, LSU
That was then: At 6-foot-1 and 213 pounds, Reid looked the part of a physical safety. He was an all-around player who could defend both the run and pass well and showed excellent closing speed. He totaled 167 tackles over his last two collegiate seasons and earned second-team All-SEC honors in 2011. Reid did have a tendency to get over-aggressive at times and overran plays. He did not necessarily have the closing speed to make up for the over-pursuits.
This is now: Looking every bit like a veteran instead of a rookie, Reid stepped in and provided consistent and solid play on the back end of the defense from Week 1. He finished second on the team with four interceptions and defended 11 passes. He also finished with 77 tackles which trailed only NaVorro Bowman and Patrick Willis for the team lead. For his efforts, he was named to the Pro Bowl as an alternate.
Cornellius Carradine, Defensive end, Florida State
That was then: An ACL injury cut short Carradine’s senior season and would put his first year in the NFL in jeopardy. Despite that, he still did enough to warrant first round consideration. Carradine recorded 11.0 sacks and 13.0 tackles for a loss in 12 games. He did not become a starter until his senior season, however, and only played two seasons at Florida State as he was a transfer from Butler Community College.
This is now: Carradine was essentially “red shirted” for his first year in the NFL as he did not play a down and spent most of the season on injured reserve. He will no doubt figure into the team’s future plans if healthy but the Niners wanted to make sure that he was fully healed from his injury before putting him on the field. Carradine recently had a procedure done to his knee to remove scar tissue that had formed which had prevented him from straightening his leg completely. Only time will tell if it’s a lingering situation.
Vance McDonald, Tight end, Rice
That was then: Playing most of his snaps from the slot at Rice, McDonald looked to be a natural receiver at the tight end position coming out of college. He caught 119 passes over four seasons and scored 15 times. McDonald also appeared to have a knack for moving the chains as 28 of his 36 receptions in 2012 went for first downs.
This is now: Considering the 49ers like to run their offense from a two tight end set, McDonald’s production was far below what was expected. He was only targeted 19 times in the passing game all year and finished with 8 receptions for 119 yards. Looking deeper, McDonald failed to catch more than one pass in any game all season. He will have to up his game in 2014 or this pick will be looked at as a bust.
Corey Lemonier, Linebacker, Auburn
That was then: Lemonier was named to the SEC first-team all-conference as a sophomore due to his 13.5 tackles for loss and 9.5 sacks. His play declined a bit in his junior season as his sack total dropped to 5.5, but he still showed a enough ability to warrant consideration early in the draft. Concerns included a lack of power that may have forced him to get swallowed up by blockers at the next level.
This is now: Lemonier was forced to take on a larger role than anticipated when Aldon Smith left the team to enter rehab for substance abuse after Week 3. Lemonier split time at outside linebacker with Dan Skuta and more than held his own. He only recorded one sack (which went for a safety) but he was able to provide pressure on opposing quarterbacks when given the opportunity. Barring injury, Lemonier won’t have more than a reserve role in 2014 with Smith and Ahmad Brooks ahead of him on the depth chart, but the 49ers can rest easy knowing he is more than capable should he need to step in.
Best of the rest
While there wasn’t much in the way of production, the 49ers see bright futures in their two fourth round selections. Wide receiver Quinton Patton lost much of his rookie season to a foot injury but showed he could make plays when given a chance. Running back Marcus Lattimore was in a similar situation as Carradine, in that he was given the season to heal from a knee injury. He will weigh in heavily in the competition for carries behind Frank Gore moving forward and could eventually be a workhorse back. Fifth round pick Quinton Dial may prove to be a valuable role player on the defensive line. He showed promise in limited snaps in 2013 after returning from an injury of his own.
Photo: Getty Images
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