The most intriguing young player this offseason for the San Francisco 49ers is Cornellius “Tank” Carradine. The Niners selected Carradine in the second round of the 2013 NFL Draft with the 40th overall pick. Carradine was the first of several players that had severe injuries heading into the draft that were selected by the Niners. The amount of the Niners’ talented depth allows them to take chances on promising prospects that have medical issues that could scare other teams away, due to the player potentially needing a full year to get healthy. They are building for the future, but just how bright in Carradine’s future with the Niners?
Carradine’s development is extremely important for the 49ers, as their aging defensive line unit needs an infusion of youth. Carradine is seen as a player that can potentially replace Justin Smith, when he decides to retire in the future. If you were to listen to some of the “experts” in the NFL media, then you would be led to believe that defensive line is a draft need for the Niners, but those “experts” are forgetting about Carradine.
Carradine is essentially an extra early round pick for the Niners this season. He was highly thought of heading into his senior season, as he has excellent physical attributes and abilities. Carradine has a big, solidly built frame, which he combines with excellent quickness and agility, that makes him a terror rushing off of the edge.
He was having a monster season before he was injured towards the end of the year against Florida. He amassed 80 total tackles, 13 tackles for a loss, and 11 sacks in just 11 games. Overall in his career, he totaled 21 tackles for a loss and 16.5 sacks in just two seasons at Florida State. His production, athleticism, and high-motor really impressed scouts. Despite the injury, many draft experts still felt Carradine deserved a first grade.
Here Doug Farrar of Sports Illustrated is thoroughly impressed by Carradine’s scouting film:
Watching Tank Carradine tape. Great googly-moogly. That kid is going to be an unholy force if the ACL checks out.
— SI_DougFarrar (@SI_DougFarrar) March 3, 2013
Daniel Jeremiah of the NFL Network felt that Carradine is worthy a solid first round grade:
After watching his tape and talking to several different teams, I’ll be surprised if Tank Carradine isn’t a 1st round pick.
— Daniel Jeremiah (@MoveTheSticks) April 2, 2013
Matthew Fairburn of SBNation upped the ante by declaring that Carradine has the talent to be a top-five selection in the draft:
The more I watch Tank Carradine, the more I’m convinced he would be a top five pick if not for his injury. Dude had 80 tackles this year.
— Matthew Fairburn (@MatthewFairburn) March 21, 2013
Matt Miller of Bleach Report echoed the sentiments of Fairburn about Carradine being a top-five pick:
My ranking of Tank Carradine (DE-FSU) may surprise people, but once healthy I see a dominant pass rusher. He’s top 5 for me.
— Matt Miller (@nfldraftscout) April 5, 2013
As you can see, Carradine is a highly talented player with a very high ceiling and that he was seen as top half of the first round type player. The torn ACL he suffered is what pushed him down into the second, which where the Niners were able to grab him. Typically, a top half of the first round player is one that you expect to be a future Pro-Bowl and All-Pro type of player and they were able to get that value in the early second round.
Carradine is going to be expected to contribute as a role player with Smith and Ray McDonald settled into the starting roles. Carradine will be asked to be a rotational player and a situational pass rusher in his first full seasons, much like Aldon Smith in his first season. Eventually, the Niners would like him to cement himself into either starting end spot, as the team transition to younger players on the defensive side of the ball.
As a role player, the Niners are not expected Carradine to be a pro-bowler in his first real season, but they will expect him to infuse some more life in the depth pass rush. The Niners’ pass rush has revolved mainly around three players; Justin Smith, Aldon Smith, and Ahmad Brooks. They have not real fourth or fifth solid pass rushing option and they hope that Carradine can be that player that can give them some pressure on the reserve unit.
You would love to see Carradine break the double digit sack mark, but realistically Carradine is going to end up in that five to nine sack range, if things go well. You might see Carradine flash mainly in the first part of the season and the start to become a more consistent force in the later half of the year. The Niners have high hopes for Carradine and it would not be surprising to see Carradine become a very productive player in the NFL.