Another exciting draft weekend has come and gone, and now....a little more than 51 weeks before we do it all over again. Yikes!
The Niners had 13 selections, used 11 and stockpiled a third rounder for next year, to no one's surprise. The question is, "How did they do with their 11 selections?" While every person has their own interpretation of a "good" draft, to me, it is a combination of matching the best player with a specific need and at an acceptable slot. When the top need matches the top player at a top value location, it is nirvana...which rarely happens. With all of this in mind, here is my breakdown of the Niners' selections.
1 Eric Reid, 18th overall. The Niners needed to sacrifice a third rounder to jump up 13 slots to select Reid. To me, this was a selection out of desperation more than of true value. Reid was not a "reach" at 18, because some teams following the 18th slot were probably in position to draft him (Bengals more than likely). The issue is that he is not the 18th best player in this draft. In fact, I don't think he is close to the 18th best player in the draft. Now, three picks before Reid was selected, the Saints grabbed Kenny Vacarro, who I believe is FAR superior to Reid. So, this was not a good value pick. Is Reid a bad player? No. Is he worth the 18th overall, a big NO! The NIners gambled with Goldson over the last couple of years, and while they won in the past with his contract, this time the time was up. So, the cheaper route was a draftee. Reid regressed in 2012, and that should concern fans. He was not nearly the same player as the year before. He has all the physical and mental tools to become a great pro, but to me, lack something to be consistently great. Some might label it inconsistent instincts, some might call it stiff hips, I call it a move to strong safety in a couple years.
If the team if moving up to 18, get a player than matches the value. The pick should have been Tyler Eifert, who is going to be a stud in the NFL. Maybe the Bengals should send a Thank You card to the Niners for Christmas. The Niners obviously saw need at TE, as they selected McDonald 37 picks later. They should have picked up the best player on the board at that point, Eifert.
Grade for Reid: C- grade. Good player, not great, poor value, and lost opportunity and sacrificed third rounder. For the record, I did not advocate moving up. In fact, as I will show later, I held tight across all 13 picks.
2. Tank Carradine, 40th overall. Trent making the Dog a happy camper, as Carradine was the best player on the board at 40. Obviously will assume the role that J. Smith plays down the road. Just a beast all around, with a wide array of moves to get to the QB. Very impressive strength and speed combo, and is extremely determined to get on the field as soon as possible. Can't wait to see him develop as a pro. Will need to stack on about 10-15 pounds to handle the pounding that a 34 base DE takes, but in the meantime can either rush from the outside on passing downs, or inside next to Smith. Dropping down six slot and picking up extra compensation adds extra value.
Grade for Carradine: A.
2. Vance McDonald, 55th overall. Extremely athletic TE, with big upside. Outstanding combination of size, speed, strength. Still raw at TE. Reminds me a lot of James Casey. McDonald was the number 4 TE on my board after Eifert, Kelce and Ertz. Hands can be suspicious at times, and he will need to work on concentrating on catching the ball cleaner at the pro level. Should be a concern that, like Reid, he performed better statistically earlier in his career. Only 2 TD's in 2012 compared to 8 in 2010. I like the player, but assign him a slightly lower grade. To me, in a deep draft, he is more an early-mid third round value. The team really needed some CB or NT help by this point, in my opinion, and there were very talented guys on the board that could have been a better value pick in this slot. Since the team felt the need to move up six slots, and sacrifice another pick once again, it should be for a game changer, difference maker. I don't see that in McDonald. Could have picked Kelce at 61, one pick before the Chiefs nabbed him at 62.
Grade for McDonald: C+
3. Corey Lemonier, 88th overall. Lemonier is a long, athletic, 6'4" OLB with a quick first step and solid experience in the SEC for Auburn. Another very hard working player, with excellent determination and a relentless motor, he adds another edge rusher to the team. There is a lot to like from this kid. The downside is a siginificant drop in productivity on the back end of the 2012 season, as the competition became stiffer. For me, Lemonier is a bit of a one trick pony at rushing the QB. If he beats you to the edge, he's got you. However, if the OT gets his hands on him, he's done. Lemonier needs to work on counter moves if cannot beat the OT to the edge. Since this was another trade up, extra value is placed on it, as another draft choice will be used for compensation.
Grade for Lemonier: C+
4. Quinton Patton, 128th overall. He was the top guy left on my board for the team at the pick, so I saw great value and a need come into harmomic alignment, as with Carradine, with this pick. Patton was hyperproductive at Louisiana Tech, is very smooth on the field, and knows how to play the game. I saw him as second round value, so to pluck him in the fourth is a home run. Dare I say I graded him higher than the Niners' first rounder last year, AJ Jenkins. To me, he should surprise a lot of people with the productive career ahead.
Grade for Patton: A
4. Marcus Lattimore: 131st pick. A terrific football player, with great spirit and heart. The team could take a high risk player in Lattimore at this juncture with so many picks at their disposal. Why not roll the dice with a guy who could end up the best back in the draft? This is the positive spin on Lattimore. The reality is that Lattimore suffered a horrific injury, and while there are examples of RBs who return to form after major ACL surgery (Peterson, McGahee), most are not the same. Further, Lattimore has a lot of mileage on that body, even before the injury, as he has been taking big hits for four college years. He does not shrink from violent collisions, and that takes an extra toll. If I was a betting man, I'd say he won't end up the NFL player that I imagined when he tore up college football as a freshman. However, I wish the best for him.
Grade for Lattimore: B+
5. Quinton Dial, 157th overall. Dial is a very intriguing prospect. He has excellent size for a 34 DE, and played in a terrific program. He has a nasty streak about him. In fact, to me, he is one of the dirtier college football players. Some like that nasty streak, others see it as a sign of bad character. Honestly, I couldn't care less, as long as he is productive. Looking at his numbers, 40 total tackles in two years. To me, a bit on the low side. I look at a player like Kapron Lewis Moore who played the exact position as Dial, a 34DE, and see 40 tackles in 2012. To me, this would have been the better choice between the two players.
Grade for Dial: C
6, Nick Moody, 180th overall; 7. BJ Daniels, 237th overall; 7. Carter Bykowski, 246th; 7. Marcus Cooper, 252 overall
For the sake of brevity, I won't go into a long elaboration of the four late rounders. Let's be honest, all of these guys are going to be practice Squaders at best. I haven't read any of the 49ers write-ups post draft, but sure that Moody is shifting inside to ILB. He's a really good special teamer but nothing more. I'm guessing Daniels is also being moved to FB, TE, Hback. Good athlete, but a long shot to even make the PS in my opinion. Bykowski was selected to gain the Polish-American community, and Marcus Cooper was selected because every other back seven defender on Rutgers' squad was selected and we didn't want him to feel left out. I hope they didn't base their opinion on him due to the forty times posted at Rutgers. That track is so fast, my granny can run a forty in 4.55.
Grade for the collective bunch of late rounders: C...does it even matter?
Overall, I give the team a B- grade for the draft. I do rate it as a top 10 draft this year, but it could have been so much more. Got to hand it to Baalke for stockpiling picks this season and grabbing an extra third rounder next year. At the same time, if Justin Hunter blows up the league, and Carradine does not, we will look back at that number 34 pick and scream for the heavens.
As chronicled in the ongoing Draft Discussion Thread, and my Resetting the Board for Day Three thread, here was my 13 selections at the time of the selection. It will be fun to compare over the years.
31. Tank Carradine-DE
34. Justin Hunter- WR
61. Jesse Williams-NT/DE
74. BW Webb-CB
93. Phillip Thomas-S
128. Quinton Patton-WR
131. Cornelius Washington-OLB
157. Josh Evans-S
173. David Quessenberry-OT/G
180. Rex Burkhead-RB
237. Reid Fragel-OT
246. Marcus Cromartie-CB
252. Lucas Reed-TE
I give myself an "A" grade...of course, these were my picks.
In wrapping up, let no one ever state that they get the draft. It is like reading the mind of a woman for guys....good luck. Just when you think you've got it all figure out, you realize you know nothing. Back to square one. That is the great joy of the draft, realizing that the impossible task of mastering it will never happen, but you want to so badly. For those fixated on draft grades, one special note. The Seahawks last year were roundly booed, heckled, jeered by professions and amateurs alike for their sophomoric attempt to make selections. In the end, Bruce Irvin, Bobby Wagner, and Russell Wilson ended up being sensational picks. So, while it is fun to assign grades at this point, history shows that it can go any direction.