I don’t know if any team drafted a higher number of “big name” prospects last weekend than the 49ers. If you thought Jesse Williams was the best pick Seattle made, you’d love the 49ers draft, as it’s filled with similar draft decisions.
Regarding the Jesse Williams pick, I mirror Rob’s thoughts on it. The selection of Jesse Williams isn’t some stroke of genius that required keen talent evaluation or deep insight. Drafting a nobody like Richard Sherman coming out of Stanford and turning him into one of the NFL’s top players is what a stroke of genius looks like. Everyone in the NFL knew how talented Williams was. Seattle was just the first team to be in a comfortable enough position to gamble on Williams’ health. It was a business decision that happened to cost a draft pick.
Maybe that’s why I’m just not that taken aback by the 49ers draft. Think about Seattle’s amazing success in the draft, then think about how many of those players were not household names before those drafts. The Seahawks go mining for hidden gems. I’m not seeing anything like that in this 49ers draft class. To me, it’s just a series of business decisions for well known commodities, most of them with high risk.
Round 1: Eric Reid, S, LSU
Round 2: Cornelius Carradine, DE, Florida State
Round 2: Vance McDonald, TE, Rice
Round 3: Corey Lemonier, DE, Auburn
Round 4: Quinton Patton, WR, Louisiana Tech
Round 4: Marcus Lattimore, RB, South Carolina
Round 5: Quinton Dial, DE, Alabama
Round 6: Nick Moody, OLB, Florida State
Round 7: BJ Daniels, QB, South Florida
Round 7: Carter Bykowski, T, Iowa State
Round 7: Marcus Cooper, CB, Rutgers
Eric Reid was one of the most notable late risers in the 2013 draft process. Whenever you see a guy that’s a late riser, it’s almost always a player with questionable tape that “tested” well (at the combine or pro-day). I put on Reid’s compilation against Texas A&M from last season, and the negatives stack up while the positives are few and far between. He lacks instincts, lacks timing, clumsily drew unnecessary penalties, takes on blocks poorly and often appeared apprehensive about taking on contact or making tackles.
Ironically, the hype for Reid originates from a league wide trend to emphasize upside with players this year, especially with players that fit a “Seahawk” blueprint. Standing 6’1″, 213 pounds with the longest arms and the best vertical/broad jump among the 2013 safety group, and having no shortage of issues to nitpick him on, Reid looks quite a bit like a typical “head scratcher” Seahawks pick that turns into a star. Clearly, this pick was made not because of the player Reid currently is, but what evaluators hope he might become. It’s a lot like the Rams selection of Alec Ogletree.
Whether the Reid becomes worthy of his draft stock is on Harbaugh’s shoulders as a talent developer. I wouldn’t be surprised if Reid makes a future pro-bowl on draft reputation, ala Patrick Peterson, but I don’t expect him to be a player that causes opposing coaches sleepless nights.
I was never a big fan of Cornelius Carradine, at least not in the role he played at Florida State. Carradine did not participate in speed tests this winter as he’s recovering from a knee injury, but it’s been estimated that he has 4.90 speed and the eyeball test backs that up. Carradine is no more of an edge rusher than Jesse Williams is.
What Carradine does do well is defend the run and never give up on plays. He uses his 35″ arms well to control gaps while anchoring well. Occasionally, he’ll take advantage of poor pass protection and use his arms to turn the corner. His package of skills and size is a little bit like Courtney Upshaw, though he’s slower than Upshaw and lacks the intangible “spark” to his game that Upshaw had. Another comparison might be Lawrence Jackson, who was good at everything in college but was too reliant on strength as a pass rusher and who’s sacks were nearly always of the “cleanup” variety, rarely forcing pressures for others.
I don’t buy the talk that Carradine was a top 15 pick before his injury. His measurables and tape just simply don’t add up that high. Not for me.
Though I’d probably grade Carradine in the 3rd round, I don’t think he’s going to bust for the 49ers, unless his knee problem resurfaces. He’ll provide most of his value in run defense, while getting a few hustle sacks here and there. What he’s not is a good replacement for Justin Smith. Justin Smith’s arm combat makes him a pain to block- and makes him a much rarer talent- which is why he was taken 4th overall in the 2001 draft. If the 49ers ever do find a good replacement for Justin Smith, it probably won’t be with a second round pick.
Vance McDonald is the one pick I’m not sure how to react to. On tape, McDonald doesn’t look as fast as his impressive forty time, he struggled badly with drops, and he comes from a lower level of competition. On the other hand, McDonald has the tall yet somehow bulky bowling ball type build to run over would be tacklers with ease. He has the upside of becoming another Rob Gronkowski, himself a second round pick. If McDonald so much as becomes a poor man’s Gronk, he could easily be considered the best pick the 49ers made when looking back in a few years. Vance McDonald wasn’t necessarily a favorite of mine, but I respect this pick for what he could become. Even if he became no more than TJ Duckett the tight end, he could be a nifty NFL contributor and worthy of this kind of investment.
My favorite pick the 49ers made was Corey Lemonier in the 3rd round. Lemonier struggled with production down the stretch last season, but he tested extremely well at the combine and I thought looked the most fluid in drills of any pass rusher. Lemonier’s explosiveness off the snap is about as good as you’ll find, and he combines that athleticism with one of the more complete pass rush repertoires in this draft among the more athletic prospects. Had Seattle not gone crazy in free agency, I’m pretty sure Lemonier would be a Seahawk right now, as he fits their LEO profile very well.
I wasn’t a big fan of Quinton Patton before the draft, as I think he’d need to carve his niche out as an elite possession receiver in the NFL to justify his media hype, and that would only be possible if he landed with the right kind of quarterback. If Colin Kaepernick ends up being the same passer that he was last season, I don’t think Patton landed in an ideal spot. Kaepernick locks onto receivers and forces passes. He’s still an athlete playing quarterback who achieves success through pure physical ability. I expect Kaepernick to grow next season, but I don’t really see him turning into a surgeon on offense any time soon.
Still, it’s hard to argue with a well rounded talent like Patton in the 4th round, especially one with the kind of competitive intangibles that make you think he’ll be an NFL over-achiever. This was a solid pick by the 49ers; their first pick in the draft that I wouldn’t label a “high risk” selection.
Marcus Lattimore is no stranger to injury at South Carolina, and he saved his most brutal injury for last. You have to be impressed with the character Lattimore has shown through this whole experience, and the incredible work he’s put into his recovery. Lattimore’s running style reminds me a little of a poor man’s Marshawn Lynch, and it seems both have a big heart for the game as well. Betting against Lattimore based on his intangibles alone seems like a fool’s errand.
Marshawn Lynch comparisons are passe, but Lattimore earns them much more than most runners do. Both are runners who have top shelf agility, power, balance, and resilience with NFL average speed. Both excel as first down rushers for possession oriented offenses and both only rarely create explosive plays. You put on the tape and you see a lot of five yard runs, but hardly any rushes that go for 15+. I think Lynch is better than a healthy Lattimore for a few reasons: he’s a better athlete overall and he’s more consistent week to week. Lattimore’s game log looks like Shaun Alexander’s, huge numbers one week and then quiet numbers the next.
Of course, if Lattimore does recover, he’s still a massive injury risk going forward. The 49ers team is built in a very similar manner to Seattle: primarily around the running game. How would you feel building your entire offense around a guy with Lattimore’s injury history, being backed up by a pair of 3rd down running backs (LaMichael James, Kendall Hunter)? This could end up being a great pick by the 49ers, but it doesn’t get much higher risk than this for a 4th rounder.
Even if Lattimore does turn into a good player long term, it doesn’t worry me much as a Seahawks fan. The Seahawks have done very well against physical backs in the recent past. I think Lattimore is likely to be a solid pro more than the star that his fan reputation belies. A common forecast among the more enlightened fanbase is a Willis McGahee career path. The more I think about it, the more that projection feels right.
Quinton Dial impressed me with what little I saw of him before the draft. He moves very well for a big man and would be an ideal prospect for a Red Bryant type role.
There isn’t much out there for Nick Moody. He’s a converted DB who possesses Khaseem Greene type speed. He’s said to be strong in coverage and every video I find of him shows him to be a big hitter. This is the first pick the 49ers made that I hadn’t heard of. I don’t know much about Moody, but on the surface he seems to have all the tools he needs to be an NFL starter at linebacker.
BJ Daniels was my favorite late round quarterback for a read option offense. This was the one pick the 49ers made that felt like a gut punch. Of course, Daniels has a steep mountain to climb and is more of a fun prospect to follow rather than a guy who’s likely to be the next Russell Wilson.
Carter Bykowski is a flier pick in the late rounds. Possessing a Tom Cable lineman type height/weight ratio (6’7″, 306), it’s a little surprising to me that Bykowski ran only a 5.30 forty. There isn’t any tape available, unfortunately. Like Seattle’s late round picks at O-line, Bykowski is presumed to be fighting an uphill battle to make the 49ers’ roster.
You would think that standing 6’2″ while running a 4.45 at corner for a solid program like Rutgers would get you drafted before the 7th round, but that’s where Marcus Cooper (a projected UDFA) wound up. Cooper will probably be the 49ers’ equivalent of Byron Maxwell and contribute mostly on special teams.
The 49ers most successful draft in recent years was headlined by two “head scratcher” picks in Aldon Smith and Colin Kaepernick. Since then, the best player Trent Balke has pulled out of the draft was Kendall Hunter in the 4th round that same year. The 49ers were the NFL’s only team to log zero rookie starts last season.
In previous years, Trent Baalke drafted under the radar prospects with mixed results. This year, he loaded up on several well known, big name prospects with high risk. My quick takeaway is that the 49ers just drafted a bunch of NFL average players, with a handful of wildcards mixed in such as McDonald, Lemonier, and Lattimore. I’m not particularly bullish on the 49ers’ performance on days one and two, but I thought they had a fairly strong day three.
Last year I had no doubt that the Seahawks had the best draft not only in the division, but in the NFL. To say I was a huge fan of the Wilson pick would be an understatement, and I was thrilled by the addition of Irvin too, even if it was much earlier than I anticipated.
This year, I honestly have no idea which team fared the best. I think in five years time we’ll probably see at least one pro-bowl caliber player drafted by each NFC West team from this draft. All four teams drafted players I was very high on before the draft.
I think this was a solid draft by the 49ers but it kind of feels like a draft that Mel Kiper could have made. The only “off the radar” pick they made with much potential to excite is Nick Moody or perhaps BJ Daniels, and both will probably be long term backups. Actually, I guess I should count Corey Lemonier as being off the radar since most people who do not frequent this blog are likely to be unfamiliar with him.
For the most part, this draft felt more like a series of calculated business decisions more than talent evaluations. Time will tell how those calculated gambles play out.