The San Francisco 49ers again showed the willingness to draft injured collegiate prospects in the hopes of redshirting them during their rookie seasons.
This strategy came to the surface once more when general manager Trent Baalke tabbed Florida Atlantic cornerback Keith Reaser with the 170th overall pick in the 2014 NFL draft.
He suffered an ACL tear last year and is expected to miss all of the 2014 NFL season while recovering from the injury.
The 49ers have gone this route before with Tank Carradine and Marcus Lattimore last season and Brandon Thomas this year.
By doing so, San Francisco recognizes such players will not count against the 53-man roster, essentially stowed them away until they're ready to take the field.
Additionally, the 49ers look to reinforce their secondary with this pick—arguably the weakest portion of the defense.
At 6'0" and 190 pounds, Reaser looks like solid athlete at this position. He totaled 154 tackles in his four years at Florida Atlantic and also netted five interceptions and 19 passes defended during the same span.
According to Pete Prisco of CBS Sports, he "demonstrated desirable fluidity and natural coverage ability despite his smallish frame."
While his injury kept him out of most events at the NFL Scouting Combine, Reaser does possess good speed:
He also posted 22 bench reps at the combine—tied for most among cornerback prospects:
The combination of fluidity, strength and speed lend credence to him becoming a decent cornerback in the future. He won't take the field in 2014, but San Francisco has the chance to turn him into something over the next few seasons so long as he remains with the team.
While the approach of drafting injured players can often result in getting top-tier talent, the 49ers may have gaffed a bit here.
Reaser could be a decent corner if he recovers sufficiently from his ACL injury. Yet as his draft profile page on CBS Sports indicates, he probably was best targeted after the draft as an undrafted free agent.
On this page, Dane Brugler states that Reaser would have been a draft pick if not for the injury. While drafting him could result in a steal, it would have been a larger one had San Francisco sat on him a little longer.
Reaser will start 2014 on the PUP list.
Like a number of other 49ers prospects in recent drafts, we will not get a chance to evaluate him until he is healthy enough to take the field.
However, if he is able to recover fully from the ACL tear and develop into a solid cornerback, the 49ers may have landed a proverbial "diamond in the rough."
He has the attributes and capability. All that remains to be seen is whether or not San Francisco can bank on him impacting the secondary down the road.
As always, be sure to stay tuned to this author's coverage and analysis of each 49ers pick in the 2014 NFL draft.
Peter Panacy is a featured columnist for Bleacher Report, covering the San Francisco 49ers. Follow him @PeterMcShots on Twitter.
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