The 2013 San Francisco 49ers rookie class has made an impact right from the start. Eric Reid locked up the starting free safety spot and has already brought a consistent presence against the run game in the secondary. The rookie class consists of Reid, Vance McDonald, Corey Lemonier, Quinton Patton, Darryl Morris, Kevin McDermott, Tank Carradine, Quinton Dial, Nick Moody, Luke Marquardt and Marcus Lattimore. Let’s take a closer look at the rookie class and give them a grade.
Reid has been the most productive rookie. He has been a a force when defending the run and has made some jarring hits in the secondary. Reid started this season with a bang against the Green Bay Packers as he recorded one interception and seven tackles. He has been very impressive and has filled in admirably for the departed Dashon Goldson. At this point, he is worth the trade up that the 49ers used to get into position to secure the services of this prototypical safety. Reid raises the overall grade of the rookie class for sure.
Corey Lemonier is a rookie that surprised me. I had some questions about his ability to keep his chest plate clean but he put those to rest quickly. The preseason game against the Denver Broncos is when he really showed me what he can do. His first step is lightning quick. He gets a jump on the ball that has made some commentators think he was offsides. Lemonier hasn’t recorded any sacks but he has gotten pressure on the quarterback. On one occasion against the St. Louis Rams, Lemonier got pressure on Sam Bradford and it caused him to miss a wide open Austin Pettis for a sure touchdown. Lemonier will have an increased role due to the Aldon Smith situation. Look for his grade to rise as he gets more snaps.
Quinton Patton is an interesting one. He was not able to fully participate in practice but his energetic and upbeat attitude definitely remained present. Once he was able to be cleared to play, Patton showed off against the Minnesota Vikings by scoring a touchdown in his first game as a pro. Patton took another step the following week against the San Diego Chargers as he caught a short pass and outran the secondary on his way to a long touchdown.
Going into the season, there was a lot of excitement about Patton. He barely saw the field against the Packers and that upset a lot of fans. Patton’s first and only reception on the year came against the Colts. Unfortunately, it was a costly reception as he ended up suffering from a metatarsal fracture. He is expected to be back later in the season. The grade on Patton is incomplete.
Vance McDonald is a name that I mention whenever I talk about players that I want to see break out. There were some questions about his blocking ability during training camp but those were put to rest by week three when he had punishing blocks during the only scoring drive against the Indianapolis Colts.
McDonald is a big target that should be used more in the red zone. He only has four catches for 58 yards and is averaging 14.8 yards per catch. His longest catch was a 25 yard reception which came in the season opener. The highlight of his season so far was when he caught a pass from Colin Kaepernick in the flat and bowled over Richard Sherman. Hopefully, the 49ers will work McDonald into the offense and give him some more targets. He is not having the same impact as Reid but McDonald is logging a significant amount of snaps.
Darryl Morris and Kevin McDermott have both made the roster and logged some snaps on special teams. McDermott had an impact on the 49ers because he allowed them to save cap money. He beat out a long tenured veteran in Brian Jennings for the long snapper position. Morris is said to be the fastest on the team and has played a bit on the kickoff unit.
Nick Moody is another player that was drafted to help on the special teams unit. He was a special teams ace at Florida State and that carried over to the NFL. He converted from safety to linebacker at Florida State and will continue the evolution in the league. Jim Harbaugh raved about how impressed he was with Moody and how he expected the same from him with the 49ers. Moody broke his hand and was put on injured reserve with an designation to return. Under the “designated to return” category, Moody will be eligible to practice after Week seven and play after Week nine, which would be Nov. 10 against Carolina.
Tank Carradine and Quinton Dial are both on the reserved non football injury list. They are set to come off very soon and will force the 49ers to make a decision about how they will open up roster spots for these two defensive linemen. Carradine is a player that many linked to the 49ers prior to the draft and they are expecting a lot from him. Dial should help provide depth as well.
The last rookie is one that could be the best of this fine bunch. Marcus Lattimore has become a story of how adversity builds character. He will be coming back from a major injury that will cost him all of the 2013 season. Prior to the injury, Lattimore was considered to be one of if not the best college running back. Next year will be interesting when he presses for a roster spot.
The 2013 rookie class has earned a B- in my book. The class has an impactful player at the top in Eric Reid. The grade for them at this point is incomplete but once Patton, Carradine and Dial return from injury, the grade is likely to go up.