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5 things to know about 49ers 7th-round pick LB Tatum Bethune

Apr 27, 2024 at 5:39 PM

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The San Francisco 49ers rounded out their 2024 NFL Draft class on Saturday with the selection of Florida State linebacker Tatum Bethune, who was picked at the 31st spot in Round 7 (251 overall).

Bethune (5-11.5, 229) brings a good amount of experience and production, some interesting bloodlines, and a desire to get physical. Let's take a look at what to know about Bethune as he makes his way to the Bay Area.

Where he fits

Bethune is a linebacker who analyst Lance Zierlein says "can be unorthodox, and he'll miss more tackles than you'd like, but he's productive, with a feel for the game that could see him land as a Day 3 linebacker with backup potential inside." Bleacher Report says Bethune "is a physical linebacker who likes to hit people in the running game and can lay the wood" but that he "lacks NFL size and didn't test well enough to suggest he can overcome that athletically."

Bethune enters into a linebacker room that features Dre Greenlaw, Fred Warner, Dee Winters, Demetrius Flannigan-Fowles, Jalen Graham, Curtis Robinson, and free agent additions De'Vondre Campbell and Ezekiel Turner. Even if Greenlaw starts the season on the sidelines while healing up the torn Achilles he suffered in the Super Bowl, Bethune could find himself in a challenging spot when it comes to making the roster. It'll be possible for Bethune to win a roster spot in a battle that will likely include Winters, Turner, Graham, Flannigan-Fowles, and Robinson, but it won't be easy, and it may well involve proving his worth on special teams. Will he be able to do so among an experienced group that includes a special teams ace in Turner?

Education first

Bethune is a distant relative of famous civil rights leader Mary McCleod Bethune, who had a list of groundbreaking accomplishments that included creating the foundation for what would become Bethune-Cookman University. Bethune's parents also work in education, so it comes as no surprise that he put academics in front of football during his college years.

"I came from a family where education was a huge thing," Bethune told in 2022. "Like, even now, the main goal is not the NFL right now. It's to get my degree and make sure my grades are straight. And that's always the main focus. … Growing up, school was always the priority."

Maybe he would like to move up front?

Bethune doesn't exactly fit the profile of an NFL defensive lineman, but that doesn't mean he wouldn't want to try if given the opportunity.

Bethune told Warchant that he was first put at wide receiver and defensive back when he started playing football at a young age but wound up on the offensive line because of how aggressive he was. His favorite position wound up being on the defensive line.

"My heart was in the trenches," Bethune said. "I loved D-Line. I really want to play D-Line. I would rather get a sack than get an interception."

Bethune racked up 14 sacks as a senior at Miami Central High School and totaled 5.5 throughout his college career.

Prolific career

In a sign of the times for college football, Bethune was one of seven players the 49ers drafted to have transferred during their college career. Bethune started at the University of Central Florida, where he played for three seasons. He appeared in 35 games at UCF (17 starts) and totaled 185 tackles, 13 tackles for loss, three interceptions, two forced fumbles and 4.5 sacks.

In two seasons at Florida State, Bethune played in 26 games with 21 starts and totaled 142 tackles, one sack, one interception, seven passes defensed, one fumble recovery and 12.5 tackles for loss. Bethune was graded at 73.0 by Pro Football Focus during his senior season.

Measurements and highlights

Bethune traveled to the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis but only performed on the bench press, where he totaled 16 reps of 225 pounds. According to Bleacher Report, Bethune was clocked at 4.77 seconds in the 40-yard dash at his pro day with a 7.03-second time in the 3-cone drill, a 4.35-second time in the 20-yard shuttle, a 30.5-inch vertical leap, and a broad jump of 9 feet, seven inches.

One of Bethune's biggest highlights in 2023 came against LSU when he gave Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Jayden Daniels a hit he'll likely never forget. Watch below:

And here is a video of other highlights from Bethune's senior season, which included a key fourth-quarter interception to help seal a late-season win over Louisville that kept Florida State's undefeated regular season record intact.

Bethune totaled 70 tackles and 5.5 tackles for loss as a senior.

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