San Francisco 49ers: The Best Rookie Storylines
While the start of OTAs opened with some grim news—that of Michael Crabtree's Achilles tendon injury, of course—at least football is inching closer and closer as we speak.
After the draft and free agency, the NFL offseason can get quite boring.
However, the San Francisco 49ers are the exception. Well, at least for this offseason, especially in regard to the 2013 rookie class.
This 49ers rookie class brought more than talent to Santa Clara this offseason. From inspirational stories to weird factoids, this 2013 rookie class was interesting, to say the least.
Let's get started!
Jim Harbaugh Failed Recruitment?
Many expected the 49ers to draft a safety. In fact, many even expected the 49ers to move up with their bevy of draft picks to solidify their back end.
Lo and behold, the 49ers did move up, and they ended up selecting LSU safety Eric Reid with the 18th overall selection in the first round
It seems Trent Baalke was high on Reid, but Harbaugh's fascination with the defensive back dated back to his days at Stanford.
While at Stanford, Harbaugh recruited Reid in the hopes of luring him away from LSU.
"He was a very, very fine student," Harbaugh recalled, via Jarrett Bell of USA Today. "That was something that was important to his mother. So I felt like we had a shot."
The born and bred Louisiana product wasn't having any of it and decided to keep his commitment with LSU.
"This time, Eric had no choice," Harbaugh said.
This was, of course, exciting to both Reid and the 49ers. Now, Reid must fight Craig Dahl for a starting safety spot opposite veteran Donte Whitner.
The work is only beginning.
Patton Eager to Learn
Quinton Patton has already ingratiated himself quite well with the Niners faithful after a failed attempt to reach 49ers headquarters.
Patton, as many of us already know, attempted to reach the 49ers headquarters the day after he was drafted. The former Louisiana tech was a fourth-round selection in the 2013 NFL draft.
Of course, the rules specify that Patton would be in clear violation if he arrived before the 49ers rookie minicamp. You can, however, visit team headquarters after you are drafted, but anytime after is in clear violation of the rules.
Patton, as recounted by Jim Harbaugh on KNBR-AM, reportedly bought his own plane ticket from Nashville to San Fran. Man, that's dedication.
Harbaugh loved it, of course:
"He's already my favorite guy," Harbaugh said on an interview on KNBR radio Wednesday afternoon.
With Crabtree out for most of the regular season, Patton will have his chance to support his new title.
Marcus Lattimore and 49ers on Same Page
The story of Marcus Lattimore's horrific knee injury has been told a billion times over, and while many of us, including Lattimore himself, will never forget that unfaithful day, it's time to move on to actual football details.
Yes, if Lattimore can make a fully recovery, and then succeed in the NFL, it should make a heartwarming story for any fan who loves the underdog.
However, the rehabilitation and recovery process is also something we should zero in. Luckily for Niners fans, it seems Lattimore and the 49ers coaching and front office personnel are on the same page.
Both sides see the need to take this process slow, despite claims that Lattimore could be ready for football-related activities come training camp.
"I know they're going to lead me in the right direction," Lattimore said, via Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle (subscription required). "So I'm all good with the plan that we have."
What's even more impressive is Lattimore's willingness to accept the obvious comparisons to 49ers running back, Frank Gore.
Lattimore on Gore as a key mentor:
"I think we're already building a good relationship," he said. "I want to learn from the best and he's the best."
Both Gore and Lattimore suffered serious injuries while in college, and while graded highly, both backs suffered draft day drops due to their ailments.
They now share a common bond.
Tank Carradine as a 3-4 Defensive End
This is a minor storyline, but something that should be addressed. 49ers general manager Trent Baalke used one of the 49ers' two second-round selections on the former Florida State product (No. 40 overall).
When the 49ers drafted Tank Carradine, some envisioned the 273-pound behemoth as an ideal outside linebacker in the Niners' 3-4 front. However, Baalke's comments proved otherwise, via Matt Barrows of The Sacramento Bee.
"He's going to play down," Baalke said. "He's not an outside linebacker. In our system - it's one of the things we really like is his versatility. He's a little bit bigger than Ray was when Ray came out."
Baalke was referring to right defense end Ray McDonald when comparing the two players.
If Baalke's intentions are true, then we may see Carradine eventually take over Justin Smith in the near future.
The "cowboy" can't play forever, though anyone would be hard pressed to find tape of Smith showing any slippage, with the exception of injuries.
Olympian Becomes a 49er
Lawrence Okoye's story was an instant hit with both casual and hardcore NFL fans. I'm sure we all know the story by now.
Okoye was a former Olympian discus finalist who decided to try a sport he admired from afar: American football.
The London-born athlete decided to pursue football before attempting law school, where he was accepted to one of the more prestigious institutions in the world: Oxford University Law.
While Okoye's past isn't exactly original, at least the part of being a former Olympian, the most amazing aspect of this story is his playing experience on any level of football.
Count "0," that's exactly the amount of experience Okoye has on a football field at any level, including collegiate.
However, the 49ers felt the 6'5'' Olympian was worth a shot as an undrafted addition.
Okoye will likely miss the cut when it comes to the 53-man roster, but as a developmental project, the 49ers could stash him on their practice squad and develop him slowly.
This could turn into a headline story if Okoye manages to beat the odds and make a consistent career as a professional football player.