Whenever the spectacle of the NFL draft comes to a close, inevitably we’re force-fed a ton of draft grades that may or may not have a shred of accuracy—which only time can prove. Sometimes we take it a step further, and are treated to a sum total of draft grades.
I prefer the revisionist route when evaluating the draft — going back three or four years and seeing who was taken where, who panned out, who busted and who was a draft steal. I mean, stop me if you heard this before, but Tom Brady was drafted in the sixth round (!). Want a less discussed draft day oversight? Oakland selected Rolando McClain 83 picks before the 49ers took Navarro Bowman. Before we laugh too hard at the Raiders, let’s not forget those same 49ers drafted Taylor Mays 34 spots ahead of Bowman, just a year before trading Mays away for a seventh round pick.
We know it’s hardly an exact science. And without the benefit of time travel, we can’t truly grade out the 2013 draft just yet. But it doesn’t hurt to analyze who the 49ers chose and what need each selection fills, and take a look at who they passed on in the process. We’ll operate under the consensus that safety, defensive line, tight end, cornerback, running back and wide receiver were all areas most in need of help or an upgrade.
Eric Reid, FS, LSU: Round One, 18th Overall
We know the basics: Has the size, plays physical 49ers-style defense, was an All-American for LSU. Fills arguably their most urgent need with Dashon Goldson’s departure. What I really like about this pick is it set the tone for a theme I’ve picked up on with this 49ers draft: none of these guys seem to have the term “character concerns” associated with them. Reid is an equally impressive student who spurned Jim Harbaugh’s efforts to recruit him to Stanford. Opinions vary on whether he was the best available safety at the time but it’s certainly a smart, safe pick.
Players also available at this pick: TE Tyler Eifert, CB Desmond Trufant, DT Sharrif Floyd, DE Bjoern Werner, FS Johnathan Cyprien
“Tank” had to wait on playing time at Florida State after arriving as a JUCO transfer in 2011, as the aforementioned Werner (24th overall pick) and another lineman started in front of him. Yet, he actually had more tackles in 2011 (38-37) than Werner without starting a single game that year. This past season he racked up 80 tackles and 12 sacks before tearing his ACL, likely causing him to fall out of the first round. Many draft pundits, including NFL Films’ Greg Cosell, feel the 49ers got first round value with this pick — even in trading down in the second round (the Titans traded up and selected WR Justin Hunter with the 34th pick). While conventional wisdom says he’ll put his hand down and prepare to be Justin Smith’s replacement, it’s not out of the question that Carradine could play upright and challenge Ahmad Brooks for playing time if he reaches his potential.
Other players available at 40: WR Robert Woods, TE Gavin Escobar, DE Margus Hunt, CB Johnthan Banks
Vance McDonald, TE, Rice: Round Two, 55 Overall
I pride myself on not just knowing my college football, but my mid-major college ball. Yet I had no idea who this dude out of Rice was. The more I hear, the more I like the pick though. At 6’4 and nearly 270 pounds, McDonald has the size to contribute as an inline blocker and should make a nice red-zone target. When evaluating him on the “Murph and Mac” show, Cosell relayed that McDonald spent much of his college career split out wide, and had a tendency to drop some easy passes. In other words, he’s a bigger, younger, cheaper version of the departed Delanie Walker.
Also available at 55: RB Eddie Lacy, TE Travis Kelce, DB/KR Tyrann Mathieu, WR Keenan Allen
Cory Lemonier, DE/OLB, Auburn: Round Three, 88 Overall
An All-SEC defensive end for Auburn as a sophomore in 2011 when he had 9.5 sacks, Lemonier can play down or standing on the outside. He has those long arms the 49ers seem to value, but scouts aren’t too impressed with his build or inability to separate from offensive linemen. Nonetheless, he provides more pass rushing depth and his selection further demonstrates the value the 49ers place on that aspect of the game.
Also available at 88: WR Stedman Bailey, DE Alex Okafor, OLB Jelani Jenkins, QB Matt Barkley
By now we all know why Jim Harbaugh loves this kid. I loved the pick in much the same way I loved Colin Kaepernick’s selection in 2011 — I’d seen enough of him when he was lighting up San Jose State on Saturdays. Many scouts and draft analysts thought Patton could squeeze into the third or even second round, so this is great value at 128. If you haven’t forgotten Michael Crabtree’s holdout during his rookie season — and no 49er fan should — it should be clear that they selected him to be more than a complementary receiver.
Also available at 128: CB Sanders Commings, DT Jesse “YOLO” Williams, CB Tharold Simon, WR/QB Denard Robinson, WR Ryan Swope, OT David Quessenberry
Marcus Lattimore, RB, South Carolina: Round Four, 131 Overall
Who didn’t love this selection, 49ers fan and draft pundit alike? When you have an abundance of picks and few immediate needs, you snatch up mega-talents like Lattimore that are recovering from devastating knee injuries. They don’t have an immediate need to fill at running back, nor did they have an immediate need they were going to fill at pick 131. But a year from now, a healthy Lattimore could be a very important part of Harbaugh’s offense.
Also available at 131: RBs Stepfon Taylor and Kenjon Barner
Quinton Dial, DE, Alabama: Round Five, 157 Overall
See a trend here? Trent Baalke and Co. like defensive linemen from big-time programs who played in big-time conferences. If Dial makes the team it will be as a versatile defensive lineman who helps stop the run in short-yardage situations.
Also available at 157: A lot of wide receivers and offensive linemen. A flyer on WR Da’Rick Rodgers (later signed as a UFA to the Bills) would have been understandable, but it would have nullified the lack of “character concerns” theme.
Nick Moody, ILB, Florida State: Round Six, 180 Overall
Moody began his collegiate career as a rather productive safety before moving to linebacker, where in 2012 he notched only 20 tackles and one sack. He figures to compete mostly as a special teams player, and could be vying with free agent signee Dan Skuta for a roster spot. I’m not sure the 49ers will get much value out of this pick, as he is probably a longshot to make the roster. Could have been a nice spot for secondary help.
Also available at 180: SS Bacarri Rambo, SS John Boyett
B.J. Daniels, QB, South Florida: Round Seven, 237 Overall
As someone who watches even the most irrelevant college football games cable can provide, I saw a lot of Daniels as a productive QB at South Florida. I like taking the flyer on a dual-threat quarterback, but I liked Matt Scott out of Arizona more. Daniels, however, has the connection (49ers linebacker coach Jim Levitt was his first head coach in college) and could convert to other positions such as wideout or kick returner. His first order of business though will be to do impressions of Russell Wilson in practice.
Carter Bykowski, OT, Iowa St: Round Seven, 246 Overall
Some extra help on the offensive line is never a bad idea, although Bykowski is likely at best ticketed for the
practice opportunity squad.
Also available at 246: TE Ryan Otten, and maybe WR Russell Sheppard
Marcus Cooper, DB, Rutgers: Round Seven, 252 Overall With the third to last pick, they couldn’t just select San Jose State sackmaster Travis Johnson and make him the latest undersized stud defensive end who converted to fullback? I guess that would be too much to ask.