The 49ers did the unexpected, again, and drafted a player that many of us either didn't want them to take, or took him earlier than we thought was necessary. For some of us, moving up to the 18th overall pick in order to select Eric Reid, represents both of those statements. I suppose I count myself in this group.
Now, before you start calling me a hater, telling me to support my team, etc., let me say that I realize that Reid is a Niner now, and of course I'll root for his success. I refuse to hate a draft pick beyond the initial reaction period, unless of course he turns out to be Kentwan Balmer.
What I knew of Reid prior to this point was that he simply didn't make enough plays in the passing game; for me, anyway. Losing a guy like Dashon Goldson, known for big hits and flashy interceptions, makes one hope to find a similar player. Granted I had my issues with aspects of Goldson's game, but he was rangy, able to cover ground and track the ball when in the air, as well as time the hit on the receiver when he couldn't get to the football.
Reid's best plays seem to be when he was surrounded by a star-studded cast that included Tyrann Mathieu and Morris Claiborne. If you put on the 2011 games you'll see him freelance a bit more, taking some chances in the back end. The bright side of course is that it shows he can do some things. The only concern I have is how "free" he'll be in Vic Fangio's defense.
The 49ers played their safeties in deep zone quite a lot in 2012, and really have always preferred to keep them back against vertical passing games. That means that man coverage isn't as important for these guys, but reading the play, keeping track of the receivers releasing into their area, and driving on the throw to get to the ball ... those things are key.
Turnovers also change the course of the game, so getting to the ball when it's in the air and making the sometimes-difficult interception are very desirable traits for a safety to have. Sometimes it's easier than others, with the pass-rush forcing bad decisions or errant throws. Other times you see guys dropping easy interceptions.
Today I'm reading scouting reports; some I've seen before, others I'm reading for the first time. I suppose I'm looking for something I may have missed before, or people who are high on Reid and why. This is a good place to start: Eric Reid Video and Scouting Reports.
One thing you'll immediately see is that Reid is a fierce tackler. He has great size and knifes into the backfield and/or flat with good speed. He likes to mix it up, which has always been important to the 49ers. This also creates some turnover opportunities with forced fumbles and such. Reid also seems to be a magnet for turnovers, be it his own created fumbles or a bouncing ball coming from God-knows-where.
Of the interceptions you'll see, most were relatively simple, but at least he tracked them and made the play. As I mentioned, there are plenty of DBs who can't catch a cold in a room full of toddlers. He also has some moves after the catch to pick up extra yards, which can really flip field position.
Where Reid is a beast is going forward. That does come into play in zone coverage, obviously, but in this case it's mostly in the short-to-intermediate range. Of course plenty of passes will be thrown there, and he should shine coming up to make a play on the ball or man. My only concern is how he does when forced to turn and run against vertical routes, or when moving across the field towards the sideline to make a play in Cover 2.
Lastly, Reid is high-cut, a V-shaped athlete. He has good size in the upper half despite being a long player, too. He has a lot of surface area to make contact on tackles, and you'll see him take down the likes of Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson, often causing the aforementioned to fumble on the play.
Part of me wonders if the 49ers don't get another rangy safety and then slate Reid to be Donte Whitner's replacement. He seems to thrive underneath, similar to how the Seahawks use Kam Chancellor closer to the line, with Earl Thomas patrolling deep. This requires good press-man corners, often bigger in size; so if the 49ers draft a guy that fits the mold of a Brandon Browner or Richard Sherman, it could be an indication of which direction the plans for the secondary are heading.
At any rate there is enough to like about Reid and the 49ers have an excellent coaching staff. Obviously the scouts, front office and secondary coaches know a heck of a lot more than I do, and have access to more and better film on these prospects. I don't claim to be even in their realm, so I trust them that Reid will be great for this team.
Who knows ... if he plays well enough as a rookie, I might even consider getting his jersey.
MORE DRAFT COVERAGE
- Early 49ers draft grades
- First Round Winners, Losers
- 49ers Pre-Draft Roster
- Prospect Scouting Reports
- Consensus Top-400 big board