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Niners Nation Scouting Report: Ray McDonald

Ray McDonald is one of the most intriguing picks we made in this year's draft.  He's a guy with first or second round talent who slipped due to injury issues (see: Gore, Frank).  He might turn into the horse that Gore has become, but the talent is clearly there for McDonald to become a force on our defensive line.

With that in mind, I spoke with Mark over at Swamp Ball, to get a Florida fan's insight into Ray McDonald (a similar report for Joe Cohen coming soon).  Mark had the following to say about McDonald and his potential contributions to the 49ers.

Ray McDonald
Round Three, #97 Overall

Year   Tackles   TFL   Sacks
2006     36      4.5    3.0
2005     8       3.0    1.0
2004     39      10     3.0
2003     54      8.0    4.0

When you take a look at McDonald's stats during his college career in Gainesville, a few glaring things pop out at you; His Freshman season for one, and second would be his numbers during the 2005 season (as a Junior).

On a positive note we can look at Ray's production during the 2003 campaign, his Freshman season for the Gators.  To put it mildly, the guy burst onto the scene; He made Gator fans salivate at the thought of what could be on the way during his career in the Orange and Blue, putting up 54 tackles and four sacks on the year.  His quickness off the end, as well as his knack for finding the ball-carrier and making a sure tackle were skills you usually didn't see in a freshman defensive lineman -- but he excelled in both of these categories in 2003.

After another well-played campaign in 2004, making 39 tackles (including 10 tackles for loss), disaster would strike McDonald in the form of a knee-injury early in the 2005 season.  Against the Tennessee Volunteers in the third game of the season, McDonald went down with an injury to his ACL -- something that required surgery.  After it looked like the surgery was only minor, he was able to make appearances in two more games, only to go down once again and have to go through season ending surgery on his other knee.  This was devastating; Not only on his numbers, but his outlook on his future as well.  He would now be considered "injury-prone" as two surgeries in a span on a few months were required to fix a fragile ACL.

But it didn't stop him, as he came back 100% in 2006 -- and it showed.  McDonald returned to form with 36 tackles and three sacks.  He looked as quick off the end as he did prior to the injuries, and even proved he could plug holes in the middle as a defensive tackle.

While McDonald may not have flashy size or athleticism, he is deceptively quick and has a great nose for the football -- and he's versatile.  While we would see him primarily as an end at the pro level (he may not have the skill-set and size to play tackle in the NFL), he can bring a lot to the table, whether it's holding his ground in the running game or getting to the quarterback with his quickness around the end.  And at any point he could bulk up and has experience at DT as well.

This was an excellent pickup for the Niners, considering the pick came in the third-round.  If it wasn't for the two knee-surgeries in 2005, McDonald could have easily been picked in the first two rounds.  Seeing that the effects of the injuries did not produce much change in his production in 2006, this looks like a nice gamble and very good steal for San Fran.


So a big thanks to Mark from Swamp Ball for this scouting report.  Although it may take some time for McDonald to adjust at the next level, I really like the pick and look forward to seeing him learn from a true great in Bryant Young.