Heading into this offseason, many had strong opinions on which direction the 49ers should go with their draft picks in the first three rounds. After drafting Tank Carradine in the second round, I thought the 49ers would go with a cornerback in round three, but I was wrong. The 49ers surprised me when they instead opted to select outside linebacker Corey Lemonier.
Trent Baalke's plan was to add some pass rushers, a position lacking in depth last season. Aldon Smith played injured one-third of the season, and it would have helped to have a quality guy behind him. The 49ers are hoping Lemonier can develop into a quality outside linebacker.
Weight: 255 lbs
40-Yard Dash: 4.60
Bench Reps: 27
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Lemonier's strengths boil down to his biggest intangibles, which are signficant.
- Speed: He has exceptional speed for an outside linebacker, posting a 4.6 forty at the combine.
- Strength: Lemonier is very strong and can engage an offensive lineman and win the battle. He is a great uphill pass rusher that can push the lineman back with force; he doesn't have to rely on just finesse. With his strength he also has a knack for hitting really hard and laying the boom. When he gets a player squared up, Lemonier is going to knock him out, or come close to doing so.
If Lemonier can improve some of these areas, watch out!
- Run Defending: He over-pursues at times and does not maintain the edge. He will have to become more disciplined in the NFL, or some big plays will be given up.
- Missed Tackles: Lemonier must become more sound with his tackling. I don't think this will be an issue going forward; he's going to be around the best tackling players in the NFL, which will only help him improve.
- Playing in space: This is something Lemonier will have to improve upon drastically. When in space, Lemonier seems to be a little unsure of when to engage or stand pat before making his move. There are times he will either over-pursue or get caught flat-footed in space -- a bad position to be in when you need to make a tackle. There will be times when Lemonier is called upon to play pass coverage. Practice will help Lemonier with this, as he does not have much experience in this facet. While outside linebackers in the 3-4 aren't asked to cover at a high level, he'll need to have adequate coverage skills at the very least.
Lemonier does have holes to his game and is far from a finished product, but the intangibles are there. He now just needs an excellent 49ers defensive staff to coach him up. The transition from defensive end to outside linebacker won't be easy by any means, but it helps when you have coaches who have succeeded in converting Aldon Smith into one of the best pass rushers in football two years prior. If he lives up to his potential, Lemonier could turn out to be Ahmad Brooks' heir apparent. The choice is his.