The San Francisco 49ers draft class of 2013

May 4th, 2013 | Written by Kip Earlywine

I'd bet that Marcus Lattimore will bounce back, but will he dominate?

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.

Overall impression:

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.

38 Responses to “The San Francisco 49ers draft class of 2013”

  1. hawaiihawkfan says:

    I feel like I spent all this time looking at cool NFL prospects the last 4 months just to see them go to the 49ers and Rams? I heard almost nothing about Christine Michael and Chris Harper, while Jordan Hill was kind of an afterthought. Jesse Williams was more criticized than anything while our other 5th rounders nobody even mentioned that I know of. Strange enough though I feel like we’ve already won because of our FA pick-ups. Before free agency started if you would have told me that we would end up picking up Percy Harvin, Cliff Avril, Michael Bennet, and Antoine Winfield I would have said your dreaming. So when I look at our draft plus FA signings we still ended up tops in the NFL when it’s all said and done. In Pete and John we trust, go Hawks!!

    • Towards the end I heard complaints that we were talking up Christine Michael too much, so it’s kind of funny that you didn’t hear much about him. Harper though, yeah, that one caught us off guard. I was more familiar with prospects like Jared Smith, Luke Willson and Ty Powell than I was for Harper. Harper would have completely escaped my radar if not for annoying Ducks fan’s that kept bringing him up.

      Percy Harvin, Cliff Avril, Michael Bennet, and Antoine Winfield. That didn’t actually happen, did it? I don’t think I could have pulled off that kind of an offseason even in Madden.

      • Kenny Sloth says:

        you must not be very good at Madden, Kip!
        I would’ve scored Rodgers and the number one pick on top of everything.

      • Colin says:

        Kip, do you really believe that STL and SF came out of this draft with a ton of average players? I know you liked (somewhat) what AZ did in this draft, but I just don’t know how we can say they came out with average talents and we didn’t. I didn’t love what any of them did, but I don’t believe we can necessarily feel good about adding Tavon Austin and Alec Ogletree to a team that is rapidly ascending.

        • On the first sentence, yes. On the rest, you have me misquoted.

          If you read carefully, I intimated that Austin was an exception to my “average players” comment. He’ll be an impact player. Ogletree smells like a draft bust, though. I’m not even that high on his upside.

          I never said Seattle’s draft was better than the others. Every one of the NFC Drafts strike me as somewhere in the middle of the pack this year. That includes Seattle. I really liked the Michael and Simon picks, but both will be backups for a year or two and the rest of the draft is made up with solid role players. I think if we are comparing this draft to Seattle’s previous, it’s closer to the 2011 group than the 2010 and 2012 efforts. I don’t really count Harvin- I view him as being an extremely expensive FA signing.

          • Colin says:

            Thanks for the clarification. I misinterpreted your writing as to believing the Seahawks had a better draft than the others.

            • SunPathPaul says:

              Come on Kip. Percy IS our first round pick.

              A 7th this year, which we had plenty, and next years 3rd? That’s peanuts!!!

              Really…Peanuts. Our 3rd this year in swap for Percy as an example…(glad we have Hill)
              That’s not much for what Adrian Peterson, he plays the game at its’ top shelf, calls the most dynamic player he has ever played with?! WOW

              Chris Harper did surprise me. Glad they got a WR, but hadn’t heard of him. After reading the article about him on Seahawks.com, I LOVE the pick! We shall C

              Go ‘Hawks!

              • Kip Earlywine says:

                I don’t view Harvin as our first round pick, honestly. Here’s why: the best NFL rosters are the ones who stretch their cap dollars the furthest, which is why the teams that draft the best almost always have the best NFL teams. Draft picks give you a chance for good players that come on cheap contracts.

                If Harvin was on a 4 year, $6 million contract, then he’d make a fantastic first round pick. But he’s not. He’s on a 6 year, $66 million contract. Harvin is a strong addition, but he’s not a cost effective one. In that sense, I view him a lot like a 1st + 3rd RFA signing. It was a very expensive free agency addition that happened to cost draft picks.

                Maybe it’s just meaningless semantics, but Harvin feels like a free agency move, not a draft move to me.

  2. Kenny Sloth says:

    Jice work as always.

  3. A. Simmons says:

    I hope all the 49er draft picks are complete failures.

  4. Nolan says:

    Kip I really enjoyed this series I wish you were a national any last and had to do this for every team. Thanks for your work ore and post draft.

    • Thanks, these were fun to write. I’ll do a similar piece on the Seahawks draft in the near future before going back into hibernation.

  5. Kenny Sloth says:

    May the Fourth be with you, guys.

  6. Stuart says:

    As talented as the 49er’s are, last year in FA they signed WR’s Moss and Willingham and then had a draft that produced ZERO starters. As a top organization you cannot afford to “whiff” on an entire year like that expect to remain “elite” for a long time. JS keeps hitting the ball out of the park where the the 49er GM isnt. 42-13 baby.

    Go Hawks

    • PQLQI says:

      42-13? I was thinking more like 44-13, as our record over the next 3 seasons.

      • Recently NFL writer Elliot Harrison had Seattle #2 in his power rankings behind San Francisco.

        Seeing that made me feel incredulous. Then I realized something. There is something pretty damn cool about seeing the Seahawks #2 in a power ranking and feeling insulted by it.

  7. geoffu says:

    Seems they pigeonholed themselves into drafting a safety with their first pick. Thankfully they weren’t able to trade ahead of the Saints and get Vaccaro.

    Then they seemed to do the same thing with McDonald. Need to replace Walker! Trade up!

    Then they did it again for Lemonier.

    I guess what you can say about their draft is, they seemed to know exactly who they wanted and gave up picks to get them. That or they were drafting scared and traded up to fill their needs. Either way they had plenty draft capital to do so.

  8. Maz says:

    I think SF did an awesome job this draft. It sucks. STL fared well too. We will have to move forward to the actual season to settle the score now. Knowing, we did have a great FA period really saved the off season for me. We added a lot of depth and flexibility, with the players we added. I still have SEA taking the division. Go Hawks!

    • I think the 49ers did very well from the Lemonier pick on down. Gun to head, I’d probably give the 49ers the award for best NFC West draft based on what I can evaluate right now, but it’s really close between the four teams, in my opinion. It’s clouded somewhat by the fact that the Rams, Seahawks, and 49ers all had some high risk, high potential picks that are impossible to judge fairly without hindsight.

      • Attyla the Hawk says:

        It’s really going to come down to development. That’s not something we can account for now.

  9. JeffS says:

    Somehow they keep stockpiling more draft choices for the future. This is one area where they seem to clearly do better than the Seahawks.

    • Good point. I forgot to give the 49ers credit for adding a future 3rd, whereas Seattle lost a future 3rd.

    • Rob Staton says:

      Yep, this is one area Seattle hasn’t prospered so far. But the Seahawks have also been more proactive trading picks for players.

    • Colin says:

      It helps when a team will take a 3rd round talent for two 2nd round picks. That and the league generously gave them a 4th round compensatory pick, which just blew my mind.

  10. kevin mullen says:

    I actually re-read that that article about RW last year and remembered it, but didn’t fully digest it til now. I too was those few that had little hope for RW but man, am I glad I was ever so wrong…

    I loved the intagibles but I too was fixed on tangible stats: less than 6ft, lack of championships won, and probably over drafted based on body of work.

    Honestly I think the 49ers did a decent job, yeah they’re well known names, but they’re proven names. STL actually scares me more now since the draft.

    • SHawn says:

      STL is gonna make a jump this year. Maybe 10-6 and a wild card even. If they can sweep the Niners again maybe SF doesn’t even make the playoffs!! I could see SF going 2-4 in the division.

      My favorite STL pick was Stedman Bailey tho. Well, him and Austin combined is more accurate. Geno Smith is not that good, and he put up impressive numbers throwing to these two receivers. With Bradford and an improved line (hello Jake Long), they could be a very very dangerous offense.

      • A. Simmons says:

        Hard to say with St. Louis. Fisher spent most of his time preparing for divisional opponents. It paid off within the division. He also had the advantage of new schemes that opponents weren’t prepared for, whereas this year all the division teams will be better prepared for what the Rams are doing. I want to see how the Rams handle opponents that are ready for them.

  11. EranUngar says:

    As much as i hate them and as much as I agree with the “big name” evaluation I still think they had a hell of a draft.

    They share our problem with regards to making the roster of a very good team as is and making an impact but i still hate to see Lemonir and Patton in there.

    There are 2 points i wanted to add –

    1. Vance Mecdonald versus Luke Willson – They got Rice’s no. 1 TE and we got the 2nd. However, at the beginning of the year Luke was rated higher then Vance. They both share the same attributes. It seems that due to injuries this year Luke dropped to the 2nd TE position but if he comes back healthy his is as good if not better that Vance. Considering they got Vance on the 2nd and we got Luke on the 6th…a possible big win for us.

    2. While both teams boasted 2 of the top rosters in the NFL before the draft – there is one big difference between the teams. Thier roster is is based on verterans. Most of thier key players will be as good or less then last year. Our roster is based on your players. They are expected to be better this year. Especially guys like Russel, Irvine, Wagner, Turbine, Scroggs, Sweezy that should enjoy the big jump in thier 2nd season. Even guys like tate, okung, wright have played 30 games or less as starters.

    So, if it all works by the books as expected we really should have a better roster this year regardless of the fruits of the draft.

    Just imagin Gore running into Brayent, Mebane, Jesse and Bennet at LEO with smarter Wagner and Wright manning the gaps and Wienfield and Chancelor cleaning leftovers.

    yummmmmmmmmmm……

    • A. Simmons says:

      True. Frisco does have a young offense. They have an aging defense. Replacing key parts as they get older will be important. I think it will be hard to replace guys like Justin Smith and Patrick Willis, very hard.

      • Maz says:

        Quinton Dial has a chance to replace Justin Smith. P Willis is going to be hard though.

        • A. Simmons says:

          Q. Dial has a long, long, longshot chance of replacing Justin Smith. Justin Smith is top 3 at his position, maybe number 1. He’s the only player on the 49ers I look for every game. Their run defense and pass rush are predicated on Justin Smith having a good game. I doubt Carradine or Dial replace that level of talent. Smith is a unique player and not easily replaced at all. Not sure why more Seattle fans don’t realize that their defense is night and day different with and without Smith more than Willis or any other member of the team.

        • Kip Earlywine says:

          Yeah, Dial might be another Red Bryant, but he’s not a Justin Smith.

  12. DavidinBellingham says:

    I kept thinking San Francisco’s draft was philosophically oriented towards trying to piss off Seattle as often as possible. Trading up for a Seahawk style safety (big, fast, high upside/risk), trading one pick ahead of us to take a TE they thought we wanted, taking a WR frequently mocked to us, taking a LEO talked about as a Hawk pick before Avril/Bennett, Lattimore as BeastMode junior, Cooper, BJ Daniels, it’s like all our bases are belong to them.
    Or so they think. They must have frowned when we traded back after McDonald and later took Willson. Do they still feel good trading up in the first round when we traded out of it? If they have such great players, why did we pass on almost all of them? Other than Reid, Carradine, and McDonald we had a chance to draft any other player San Francisco drafted yet chose not to.
    Add it together with FA- they are trying to follow us or anticipate us step for step in an intricate dance.

    • A. Simmons says:

      Carroll has always said winning the division is the first goal. It doesn’t surprise me that Seattle and Frisco think about each other when they draft and make moves in free agency. Pete wants home games in the playoffs. We all know that winning the division and getting home playoff games is almost a surefire path back to the Super Bowl.

    • Kip Earlywine says:

      It’s good thing they didn’t draft Katz, otherwise all our bases really would belong to them.

  13. seahawksNJ says:

    Hi…I’m very new to the site…just found it this season. Love your write ups. Just read your Wilson post draft reaction from last year. I had to check the date since it could have been written yesterday and made sense. One of my favorite articles I’ve read.