Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports
Weight: 213 lbs.
In the first round of the 2013 draft, the 49ers tackled their primary need, trading up for All-American safety Eric Reid of LSU.
The departure of All-Pro FS Dashon Goldson instantly created a void on the deep part of the field—particularly the last line of defense. The hope is that Reid will be able to plug in at that spot without a substantial drop-off in performance.
According to NFL Draft Scout, Reid was the No. 2 free safety in the draft. An acting leader of one of the top-ranked defenses in the nation, Reid created quite the name for himself with the Tigers.
Coming out of the college ranks, Reid certainly looks the part of the prototypical NFL safety. However 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh was in no rush to pronounce Reid a starter.
When asked if the rookie was going to be the starter, Harbaugh replied, “He’s got the license to be. He’s got the ability to be. But there will be tremendous competition at that position and we’ll let it play out.”
In Harbaugh’s camp, first-round picks receive the same treatment as seventh-rounders and undrafted free agents. The best player will play, but of course, Reid has a very strong chance to secure the job in training camp.
Between the first-round investment, the physical ability and the fact that Harbaugh handpicked him, it will take quite a lot to keep Reid on the bench in 2013. The staff believes he can be a factor against the run and the pass.
“He can play down in the box. He has great contact courage. He likes to get from point A to point B at go hit somebody. He’s an effective tackler and he’s a hard-hitting tackler,” Harbaugh noted at the post-draft presser.
Throughout the entire draft process, there were never really any questions about Reid’s ability as a knockaround defender. He was largely defined by his physicality at LSU, which often translates to the next level.
However, despite questions, Harbaugh believes Reid can be a weapon in coverage as well.
“He also plays the deep part of the field extremely well and can track the football. He has the speed to be a range safety, cover ground—and long arms, big wingspan,” said the 49ers coach. “Gets guys down when he tackles but can also make plays on the ball when it’s in the air,” Harbaugh added.
Truthfully, whether or not Reid starts as a rookie in 2013 depends largely on the staff’s confidence in his coverage ability. If they feel he can absorb the playbook, execute a disciplined style of football and not be a liability, he’ll be the No. 1 safety.
The 49ers love Eric Reid’s upside.
“He was here yesterday, well into the playbook, very bright young man, been an exceptional football player. We’re extremely excited to have him,” Harbaugh concluded.
Projections: 80 tackles, two forced fumbles, 11 pass breakups and one interception