The San Francisco 49ers 2013 NFL Draft class was met with much applause and admiration. Many experts felt the Niners had an excellent draft with their bounty of picks to play with. These experts ranked with drafts grades ranging from an A+ to a B, but many hovering in that A/B+ range. The team managed to hit on many of their needs heading in, while using their deep roster to allow them to take some chances on some high upside players that would need to develop.
With their first year in the books, it is time to grade the initial for the Niners’ 2013 draft class:
1(18). Eric Reid, Safety: A
Reid was the shining jewel of the draft class as the first round pick. Many people questioned the Niners’ decision to jump into the middle portion of the first round to select the safety from LSU, as many people assumed that Reid would be around at the back end of the first round.
Reid came out and earned the starting free safety position by opening day and proceeded to have an excellent season that finished with a Pro Bowl selection. Reid finished third on the team in total tackles with 77 and second on the team with four interceptions. Reid’s ability to quickly grasp the playbook along with his excellent instincts helped to speed up his transition to the NFL. He seemed like his was in his third or fourth NFL season and not just a rookie. He had a couple of visible lapses in the NFC Championship game, but the Niners have to be excited for what the future has in store for the talented defense back.
2(40). Cornellius Carradine, Defensive End: Incomplete
Tank Carradine was a luxury pick for the 49ers, who became enamored with the big defensive end at a pre-draft workout. Carradine was a first round talent that slipped due to a knee injury suffered early in his senior season. His first season with the Niners is being seen as a “redshirt” season, as he got a year to heal up and learn other aspects of the game. He is extremely athletic and physically gifted and could give the Niners a threat as a third down pass rusher initially, but ultimately he should pan out as a full time starter once Justin Smith decides to hang it up.
2(55). Vance McDonald, Tight End: C+
McDonald had an up and down first year coming in as the potential replacement for Delanie Walker. Coming out of Rice, McDonald was mostly lined up in the slot or out wide and did very little inline blocking. The Niners basically put McDonald on the plan they put Vernon Davis on during his rookie season. They know he is a talented pass catcher, but they want him to improve all aspects of his blocking game. If you go by the stride he made as a blocker then you would give him a B+ or an A, but he struggled with his opportunities as a receiver.
He flashed potential as another receiving option with 14.9 yards per catch average and several times he was able to get behind the defense down the field. Fans need to be patient with McDonald and see the strides he makes in year two and three.
3(88). Corey Lemonier, Outside Linebacker: B-
Lemonier was drafted to provide some depth at outside linebacker to help them keep Aldon Smith and Ahmad Brooks fresh throughout the season. He was drafted to provide immediate impact on special teams and to get some reps on third down during the season.
Smith’s departure from the team during the middle of the season gave Lemonier a much more prominent role in the rotation and he took advantage of his opportunities. Lemonier provided plenty of pressure to opposing quarterbacks, but only managed to grab one sack in his rookie season. His roles expects to be the same next year backing up Smith and Brooks, but his pass rushing should be more effective with more refining of his technique.
4(128). Quinton Patton, Wide Receiver: B-
Patton was highly productive in college, but his average size made him fall to the middle rounds and the Niners got great value on this pick. Patton was slowed down in training camp with a hand injury but managed to make a huge impression in his lone preseason game. He finally worked his way up the depth chart during the early part of the season, but then suffered a broken foot and did not return until week 16.
He came up big in the final game of the regular season with two big plays that set up the Niners in field goal position two separate times. The second one was a highlight reel catch, as he jumped over a defender to haul in a 29 yard reception along the sideline to set up Phil Dawson‘s 40 yard game winning field goal.
Patton has the ability and work ethic to be a great player in the NFL. He was slowed down by injuries in his rookie year, which lowers his grade with a lack of production. He has plans to work out with Kaepernick this offseason and that should be great for their on-field chemistry and he should earn Kaepernick’s trust in games going forward.
4(131). Marcus Lattimore, Running Back: Incomplete
Lattimore was a sure fire first round talent before a devastating knee injury cut short his junior year. The ugly injury worried teams and allowed him to fall to the Niners in the middle rounds, much like the way the team was able to snag Frank Gore in 2005. Many experts felt it was history repeating itself and the Niners had gotten the potential steal in draft, as they had the depth at running back to allow Lattimore to get back to 100 percent before seeing the field.
Lattimore is going to be huge for the Niners in the upcoming seasons, as he is the main key to their eventual move from the Gore era of their offense. There are no guarantees that Lattimore will return to his form in college, but with the advances in sports medicine and his natural physical abilities and work ethic should give him a great shot at having a similar career to Gore. He is the biggest question mark moving forward, but he could end up being the best player from this draft class in the end.
5(157). Quinton Dial, Defensive Lineman: C
Dial was in a similar situation to fellow rookie defensive lineman Carradine, as he suffered from an injury that forced him on the Non-Football Injury list. Dial was activated around the same time as Carradine, but he managed to actually see the field in a couple games. Injuries along the defensive line forced Dial into action, as it took him just a couple weeks to find himself in the rotation.
He recorded a single tackle against the Jacksonville Jaguars for his only mark on the stat sheet of the season. Dial was inactive for the entire end of the season, as the line got back to full strength. Dial is seen as rotational player for defensive line and he filled that role perfectly in the few games he was active. He should see a much larger role next season with the potential departure of Demarcus Dobbs in free agency.
6(180). Nick Moody, Linebacker: C
Moody is a very athletic linebacker, but undersized coming into the NFL. Moody was a special teams ace for Florida State in college and that was the main reason he was drafted. The Niners like his physical skill set to eventual contribute as a reserve inside linebacker down the road, as he gets bigger on an NFL weight program, but they saw the impact he could have immediately on special teams. Moody broke his hand in the season opener and the Niners thought highly enough to place him on the Injured Reserve/Designated to return list, instead of ending his season on the general injured reserved. He should be a mainstay on special teams, but the injury to Navarro Bowman could force him to see the field much sooner at the inside linebacker position.
7(237). B.J. Daniels, Quarterback: D
Daniels was a talented dual threat quarterback that seemed like a long term project for the Niners’ coaching staff to groom into a back up behind Kaepernick. Daniels is a talented athlete that lacks the size, experience, and grasp of the nuances of quarterbacking that the scouts are looking for. Daniels looked impressive in limited playing time in the preseason and he made the roster over Scott Tolzien. He was waived in the early part of the season to make room for more pressing needs and the Niners hoped to move him to the practice squad, but the Seahawks managed to scoop him up and he was their No. 3 quarterback for much of the season. He gets the D grade for not making an impact during the season, but he managed to be on the 53-man roster for two playoff teams at separate times this season.
7(246). Carter Bykowski, Offensive Tackle: D
Bykowski was seen as a project to contribute in the future. Bykowski is a massive tackle at 6’7” and 306 pounds and he was originally a tight end in college, much like Joe Staley. Bykowski’s chances at making the 53-man roster coming out of camp was slim, which turned out to be true. He was apart of the Niners practice squad for the entire season and they signed him to a reserved/future contract to bring him back for the upcoming offseason. He could an earn an incomplete, as he was not able to show what kind of player he could be, but he was healthy all season and never managed to earn a call up to the active roster at any point.
7(252). Marcus Cooper, Defensive Back: A*
Cooper has an asterisk for a single reason. He had a great rookie season with 44 tackles, three interceptions and 20 pass deflections, but those all came with the Kansas City Chiefs. Cooper was part of the final cuts following the preseason, as he was squeezed out by a numbers games at the position and they had hope to sneak him on to their practice squad. The Chiefs scooped him up and he became a key piece of their defense, as the season moved on. It shows the type of eye that the Niners scouting department has to find talent like this at the end of the draft, but also shows the downside to having a loaded roster like they do. Some good football players are going to be on the outside looking in and this will not be the last instance of this happening.
Overall, the Niners draft class performed exactly as expected and for that they get a solid B+ rating. This draft was meant to supplement and already loaded roster with talented football players to fill specific roles now and then earn starting jobs over the next few years. The deep roster allowed them to take some chances on some high upside talent that needs to be groomed, but they do not have the need for them to produce at high levels right away.
This draft will be ultimately judged in about three or four years, as many of the players should be key contributors by then. Reid is the only player that looks to be on the verge of being a star, but those incompletes could have something to say about that in the future. This class has the potential to be very special, after a solid first year in the NFL.