The close of the 2013 season means Mel Kiper is back in action to re-grade the 2013 NFL Draft that was for each team. A single season really won't tell us everything we need to know about the production of a draft class, but it gets us moving in the right direction.
Trent Baalke has done such a nice job of constructing this roster that drafting can be tricky, because the 49ers just don't have a glut of needs ... They moved up to No. 18 overall to grab safety Eric Reid. He's a kid they really like, and I'd pencil him in as the starter, I just thought he wasn't as good as maybe five other safeties that went after him. But you have the picks, you get who you want. And if Reid plays like he did in 2011, not 2012, they got a player. Vance McDonald gives them needed depth at tight end with Delanie Walker gone, and Tank Carradine and Corey Lemonier were both good values. Quinton Pattonhas a chance to stick because he's a smart route-runner and finds ways to create separation.Marcus Lattimore should be redshirted, but landed in a reasonable value range in the 4th round ... The 49ers also dealt to add picks into next year. I'd like this draft a little more if they got a safety I had rated higher, but they did well, just as you figured they would.
Nine months later, in giving them the same grade, Kiper said:
It's tough to add impact to one of the deepest rosters in the league, but the Niners did, and we could see some dividends going forward. Reid was a success story -- he stepped in at free safety and acquitted himself well. Elsewhere, Lemonier and McDonald had moments and could develop into starters. I thought Patton had the potential to play a bigger role, but he looks more like a depth option at this point. The interesting thing will be to see what becomes of Lattimore and Carradine, both of whom were drafted as guys who had no chance to play in 2013 but could provide value as soon as next season. Both carried first-round grades before suffering knee injuries. I'll keep the grade high because the Niners did get impact but could see plenty more from this class.
I don't know exactly where the 49ers rank in terms of rookie snaps, but it was not at the bottom of the league. One article said the Chiefs ranked 20th in rookie snaps played with 1,723, while the Jaguars ranked third in snaps played with 3,125. The 49ers finished the season with 2,591 rookie snaps. The Chiefs and Jaguars both selected eight players, while the 49ers selected 11. This does not factor in undrafted free agents.
The 49ers also made numerous trades, acquiring picks in 2014. The two most notable acquired picks are the Chiefs second round pick with the Alex Smith trade, and the Titans third round pick in the deal that eventually netted Tank Carradine. The volume of picks and being able to maneuver around and add future picks should boost any draft grade. I don't know exactly what kind of formula should be used for assessing that, but draft grades are fairly arbitrary anyway. Consider that Kiper didn't like the draft enough because he liked some safeties better than Eric Reid. So much for that!
Here is a quick breakdown of those snaps with the first number representing offense or defense, and the second number representing special teams.
Eric Reid: 982 + 78=1,060
Vance McDonald: 479+113=592
Quinton Patton: 60+8=68
Corey Lemonier: 276+181=457
Quinton Dial: 18+8=26
Nick Moody: 10+55=65
Darryl Morris: 7+156=163
Kevin McDermott: 160
Reid earned himself a Pro Bowl bid (alternate, but still added on) as the team's starting free safety. McDonald did not contribute in the passing game like many of us expected, but he did develop into a solid blocking option. As the season wore on, he wasn't necessarily needed to be a pass catching weapon, but it would be nice to see some improvement. Given Delanie Walker's up and down times as a pass catcher, I suppose this should not surprise us.
After those two however, there were some under the radar contributors. Corey Lemonier remained behind Dan Skuta in the outside linebacker rotation, but he was a solid contributor in that role. The OLB rotation is likely going to remain the same, but we'll see if Lemonier is able to move past Skuta on the depth chart. Skuta was a very solid contributor, earning his way above Lemonier with his production.
Nick Moody and Darryl Morris both got a few defensive snaps, but mostly focused on special teams. Moody missed a sizable chunk of the season when he went on short term IR, and will look to establish himself more on defense. If NaVorro Bowman starts the season on the PUP list, Michael Wilhoite would replace him in the starting lineup. Moody was drafted primarily for potential special teams contributions, but he has a great opportunity this offseason to potentially get some backup linebacker work. Darius Fleming will be back in the mix (converted to ILB before he got hurt), and I suspect the 49ers bring in at least one more person to compete behind Willis and Wilhoite.
The 49ers stashed Morris after training camp, but he earned a roster spot during the season and became a strong special teams contributor. He's got some great speed, and it seemed like and Kassim Osgood were constantly making plays down around the ball after punts.
And we can't forget long snapper Kevin McDermott. The 49ers brought him in to compete with long-time long snapper Brian Jennings, and McDermott snagged the job. He had just about a perfect 2013 season. His snap on the late season Dawson miss (when the laces were out out) was not perfect, but for the most part, he was as good as we could have expected. And considering the value saved with his first year minimum contract, it makes it all the better.
And yes, I do remember wide receiver Quinton Patton. The 49ers fourth round pick flashed some serious skills, even if the numbers don't reflect it. A preseason finger injury, and an early season foot injury slowed down what could have been a very solid rookie season. Colin Kaepernick showed a certain measure of confidence in the rookie, looking his way on a key pass in Week 17 against the Arizona Cardinals, and an early third down conversion in the playoffs. He'll get a lot of opportunities this offseason, particularly with Mario Manningham likely out the door as a free agent. If Anquan Boldin leaves, his opportunities grow even further, but even if Boldin stays, Patton will get chances.
Of course, much of the talk about the 49ers 2013 draft class surrounds Tank Carradine and Marcus Lattimore. Both are expected to be good to go for the offseason workout program. Lattimore figures to get right into the running back mix, and may or may not dictate the team's next step with Frank Gore. Carradine will work right into the defensive line mix, along with Quinton Dial. Dial got a small number of snaps after he came off the NFI list, but was inactive much of the rest of the way. Dial will factor into the nose tackle mix, while Carradine will get some time at defensive end and defensive tackle. The performance of those three (Lattimore and Tank in particular) could go a long way in moving this draft from a B (or worse) up to an A.