The organization’s general manager, Trent Baalke, was up front at the conclusion of the first-round that the 49ers knew whom they would select the following day. Though he would not disclose a name—for obvious reasons—it’s clear they had their guy.
For a second straight day, the 49ers targeted a played and successfully acquired him.
After trading back six spots with the Tennessee Titans, moving from No. 34 to No. 40, the 49ers selected Cornellius “Tank” Carradine of Florida State.
This is a huge acquisition for the 49ers, who were looking to upgrade their defense in this draft. As the 2012 season grew on, San Francisco noticed they were beat up along the defensive front and lacking pass rush.
The 33-year-old All-Pro Justin Smith had a partially torn tricep and was merely a shell of himself. In fact, his worst performance of the NFL season came in the Super Bowl, wherein Smith was simply worn out and ineffective.
The reality also set in that, as superhuman as Smith seems, the 49ers will eventually be without him in the near future. With Smith coming off a severe injury, being in a contract year and on the wrong side of 30, San Francisco had to begin thinking about the future.
At 6’4”, 276 pounds, Carradine is a near physical replica of Justin Smith (6’4”, 285 lbs.).
How Does Carradine Fit?
Right away, Carradine is going to be able to come in and fulfill a prominent role in the nickel package, which they use roughly 60 percent of the time, via Matt Maiocco of CSN Bay Area.
With his size, short-area quickness and raw horsepower, Carradine is a freaky athlete that brings scheme versatility. He will be effective lining all over, and the expectation is that Vic Fangio moves him around as such.
He can rush from the 3- and 5-technique successfully and make opposing offenses account for him. He will also have an opportunity to see reps from the upright position as a rush linebacker.
The value with adding him in Round 2 is that the 49ers make their opposition account for one more player. Aldon Smith received a great deal of attention, but now with Carradine, this should keep blocking schemes honest.
They will no longer be able to shift protections and focus all the attention on the Smith Brothers, or they will be leaving themselves vulnerable elsewhere.
His remarkable senior season (11.0 sacks) that saw him rocket into first-round consideration was abruptly cut short in November when Carradine tore his ACL on a non-contact play, per CBS Sports.
This is largely the reason Carradine fell to Day 2, but sure enough, Trent Baalke secured first-round talent.
After forgoing the regional scouting combine, Carradine progressed through his rehab and worked out for teams at his pro day, which was impressive amongst the football community.
According to the Baltimore Sun, a near-300-pound Carradine ran a 4.75 in front of scouts, further proving his remarkable athleticism for his size. This is what made him initially intriguing to NFL teams—he’s a hybrid defender.
The 49ers will be careful not to rush Carradine into action before he is ready, but his rehabilitation has been fluid thus far.
He will be brought in to compete, likely working with both the defensive line and outside linebacker units. He should have great hands-on coaching from Jim Tomsula, Jim Leavitt and Vic Fangio, assuring he has a chance to see his potential.
However, Darius Fleming and Cam Johnson are returning for their second seasons, both of whom list as OLBs.
If Carradine progresses well through camp, it could send one or the other to the practice squad for a year—perhaps to another NFL team. But Carradine is too special a talent to ride the bench, so he will be carefully groomed as a rookie.
The 49ers invested a first-round pick in 2011 on Aldon Smith and used him situationally.
There is less capital invested in Carradine, and given his injury status and learning curve, the 49ers will gradually ease him into the lineup.
Dylan DeSimone is the San Francisco 49ers' lead columnist for Bleacher Report. A former NFL journalist and fantasy football writer for SB Nation, Niners Nation and SB Nation Bay Area, Dylan now writes for B/R.
To talk football with Dylan, follow him on Twitter @DeSimone80