The 49ers made Tank Carradine the 40th overall pick in last weekend's draft, and with that selection the 49ers got an absolute steal. Carradine will be defensive line coach Jim Tomsula's shiny new toy over the next few years. I have complete confidence in Tomsula's coaching and defensive coordinator Vic Fangio's scheme to say: "This kid will be a home run."
Carradine will be moved around a lot to take advantage of mismatches and to keep the opposing offense guessing. Let's get to know Tank Carradine and examine why he'll be a perfect fit for the 49ers defense.
Carradine was a 6'4'', 205-pound defensive end coming out of high school in 2009. He originally committed to Illinois but failed to qualify academically. He spent his first two years of college at Butler Community College where he became the No. 1 overall JUCO prospect in 2010. (And what a JUCO class of 2011 it was!?!? Jesse Williams was No. 2, Sheldon Richardson was No. 3 and John Jenkins was No. 7 according to Rivals.)
By the time he committed to transfer and play for Florida State, Carradine had added 40 pounds to his 6'4'' frame. Carradine arrived with little fanfare as he was forced to sit behind entrenched starters Brandon Jenkins and Bjoern Werner. But not even two future All-Americans could keep Carradine off the field.
While in a "reserve" role his junior year, Carradine amassed 38 tackles including eight for loss and five-and-a-half sacks. Carradine entered the 2012 season expecting a similar role, again stuck behind Jenkins and Werner. However, Jenkins suffered a Lisfranc injury to his foot in the first game of the season, opening the door for Carradine.
Jenkins was a fan favorite and coming off an impressive sophomore campaign, meaning Tank had some big shoes to fill. He answered the call and performed better than expected. His senior year, Carradine recorded 80 tackles including 13 for loss and 11 sacks.
Carradine was up to 276 pounds and using his size, strength and speed to overwhelm the opposition and heading for a first round selection in the NFL Draft. His season would come to a crashing halt during the fourth quarter of the final regular season game vs. Florida when Carradine tore his ACL.
Just about five months later, after successful surgery and ongoing rehabilitation, Carradine, looking to regain first round draft status, ran (a 4.76 forty) and did positional drills at a personal pro day on April 20. In attendance was Jim Tomsula. In fact, the two went out to dinner the night before Carradine's pro day. The rest, as they say, is history.
Having watched Tank Carradine play the last two years I've gotten a good sense of the type of player he is:
- High motor, heart and hustle player: He doesn't give up on plays and is effective at both stopping the run and pressuring the quarterback.
- Unbelievable strength: Carradine put up 28 reps at the combine and then 32 reps at the FSU pro day. He has incredibly strong hands, allowing him to utilize an array of moves and techniques to beat his opponents.
- Athleticism: The report of a 4.76 forty is not official and some have said it may have been slower at 4.93. Considering he was just five months removed from a torn ACL it's pretty astounding he even cracked the five second mark.
- Intelligence: This was an area that Carradine improved the most during his time at Florida State. He consistently improved his play recognition skills, allowing him to properly ‘set the edge' against the run.
- Intangibles: Tank was extremely active in the Tallahassee community and even won a humanitarian award during his junior season at FSU.
Some areas for improvement would be:
- Lack of experience: Carradine only became a full-time starter during the 2012 season. He'll continue to improve with more reps.
- Explosion off the ball: While his work ethic and high motor cannot be questioned, Tank must learn to explode off the line better. He could also use work on timing the snap.
Check out some film on Carradine vs. Florida courtesy of DraftBreakdown.com. Carradine wears No. 91 and recorded 11 tackles in this game before the injury.
It will be fun to watch how Tomsula and Fangio use Carradine in the coming years. Given the injury and the typical rehab process, I would not expect Carradine to be ready for full contact by the time training camp opens at the end of July. This means he'll be behind the eight-ball and could be looking at a situation similar to Aldon Smith during his rookie year.
Carradine could come in on obvious passing downs and provide an extra pass rusher. This would allow him proper time to fully recover, a luxury not many teams can offer. Of course, it wouldn't surprise me at all if Carradine is ready to go all out by the time the preseason rolls around in August.
As for the future, it's been suggested that Carradine could eventually grow into a five-technique end and replace Justin Smith. I think it's entirely possible that comes to fruition but I wouldn't be shocked to see Carradine‘s versatility used all over the field.