When the 49ers traded up in the draft, I was excited, but when they picked LSU defensive back Eric Reid, I was surprised and a bit disappointed. He wasn't someone I expected to be picked in the first round. Full disclosure: when they traded up, I was thinking, "please be Sharrif Floyd, please be Sharrif Floyd." (We'll see if that comes back to bite me!)
In the time since they've made the pick, though, I have started to come around and to understand why they valued him so highly.
Media types tend to focus either on a guy's measurable traits and combine performance OR they focus on a guy's on-field performance. What's missing from that evaluation is what happens in the meeting room and what that means for the defense as a whole. The coaching staff has emphasized Reid's intelligence and football acumen, and that's what has me excited about Reid -- the fact that he can set things up from the third level of the defense. I fully expect Reid to be wearing the green dot on his helmet sooner rather than later.
The other thing that has helped me to understand how the 49ers braintrust justifies taking Reid with a trade-up (beyond the relatively low cost of trading up) is the comparison that popped into my head with the Golden State Warriors' latest draft pick, former UNC Tar Heel Harrison Barnes. Reid and Barnes share a lot of attributes. Think about it:
- Both started for big-name, storied programs in conferences that are arguably the best in their respective sports
- Both are ridiculous athletic specimens who measured extremely well at their sport's pre-draft combine (though both don't always play to the level of their athleticism)
- Both were high recruits out of high school, touted as top picks after their early college seasons, and both dropped a bit in the season just prior to jumping to the pros
- Both are highly intelligent, high character players
- Both have prototypical size for their positions
- Both have the ability to do the essential skill for their sport--shooting for Barnes, tackling/hitting for Reid
- Both are high-ceiling players who thrive when surrounded with top-tier talent, but as complementary players rather than as the stars of the show
I'm obviously coming around to the pick. How about you?