The San Francisco 49ers had a major decision to make at the safety position during the off season. Dashon Goldson had developed into one of the best safeties in the NFL. He was given the franchise tag the previous year. There really wasn’t going to be any way that they could resign him at the high number that he wanted. As a result, they let him go to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as they signed him to a big time deal. The next step was to turn to the draft. The 49ers targeted Eric Reid and traded up to the 18th from their 31st selection at the bottom of the first round.
Eric Reid was a safety that many had varied opinions of. Some were very high on him while others questioned his ability. His junior season was a much more successful season than his senior year. The 49ers saw that Reid was a very smart player and a leader even when the defense had other big time players such as Patrick Peterson, Morris Claiborne and Tyrann Mathieu. These two qualities stood out to the 49ers front office. Reid delivered on the gamble that the 49ers made when they selected him.
The 2013 season was the start of something big for the 49ers new safety. He filled in admirably for Dashon Goldson. Reid was the first rookie to start the first game of the season in the brief Jim Harbaugh era. Reid worked his way up the ranks and leaped over Craig Dahl as the starting free safety.
He made his impact felt right away against the Green Bay Packers. Facing a quarterback the caliber of Aaron Rodgers presented a major challenge for the rookie safety. Nevertheless, Reid delivered with an interception and he had a second one that was wiped away by an encroachment call on the defense.
Reid ended the season with 77 tackles and four interceptions. He was regarded as the best rookie free safety along with Kenny Vaccaro of the New Orleans Saints. Unfortunately, the 49ers lost to the Seattle Seahawks in the NFC Championship. As a result, Eric Reid was named to replace Earl Thomas in the Pro Bowl.
Some would believe that Eric Reid should be named as the Defensive Rookie of the Year. I have to be objective and disagree with that statement. Reid did make a tremendous contribution to the 49ers outstanding year from a defensive perspective. However, I have to point to the incredible season that Kiko Alonso had. It is hard to overlook a rookie season that included 159 tackles, two sacks and four interceptions.
As a member of the Pro Football Writers Association, I am able to vote for the PFWA player awards. I voted for Eric Reid as a part of the All Rookie Defensive Player team however, I voted for Kiko Alonso as the Defensive Rookie of the Year award. This is not to diminish the accomplishments that Reid had in his rookie season. Reid will carry on a tradition of really good safety play, one that was started with the best safety of all time, Ronnie Lott.