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49ers roster breakdowns, 90-in-90: LB Tank Carradine

Breaking down the 90 players on the 49ers offseason roster in 90 posts (over 90 or so days). We move on to recently converted linebacker Tank Carradine.

Each year, we run a series of post called "90-in-90" here at Niners Nation. The idea is that we'll take a look at every single player on the roster, from the very bottom to the top and break them down a few different ways. This is to help give everyone a basic understanding of a roster. Of course, this roster will change, and some days we'll have more than one so it's not strictly one per day but you get the idea.

Tank Carradine was an early member of Trent Baalke's All-ACL team and missed most of his rookie season with the injury. But when the San Francisco 49ers spent a second-round pick on him, many around here were excited for his potential as an edge-rusher. With Justin Smith on his way out, Carradine was a potential monster, a replacement the team earnestly needed.

And to replicate Smith (a foolish task to embark upon for any player), the 49ers had Carradine pack on weight. His playing weight at Florida State was always under 270 pounds, but Tank eventually reached up to around 295 pounds, capping just below the 300 mark. For a player without an intensely deep arsenal of pass-rushing moves to work with and without a game built on strength, he just looked like a slower, less impressive version of himself.

Which is exactly what he was. Tank rarely saw the field, and on top of that there was talk about him struggling to pick up the defensive playbook in 2014. Carradine, who was an impressive physical specimen with a high ceiling and high motor when the 49ers drafted him, was seemingly a guy that had to pan out. But his chances were limited for various reasons.

In 2015, he also didn't manage to find a way past guys like Tony Jerod-Eddie on the depth chart. Now, I don't want to bury Jerod-Eddie, but he's the pinnacle of the kind of guy that any player with potential will quickly pass up while still being a reliable backup. Carradine couldn't make it past him, and as the season dragged on, Carradine himself requested a change in plan: drop the weight and stop trying to make him fit where he clearly doesn't.

The prospect of a slimmed-down Carradine excited me, but it also makes it clearer to me that he's simply not a good fit for this defense. Slimming down makes him more of an option as a pass rusher, but not one who holds the edge in a 3-4 defense. He looks a lot more like a 4-3 defensive end as far as I'm concerned. In the nickel, he could end up playing some three-technique, but that would make him a role player and nothing more.

Carradine has played in 23 career games and has 39 combined tackles, four sacks and a forced fumble.

Why he might improve

Tank probably should never have started bulking up, and by that logic, he probably should never have been drafted by a 3-4 team. It was easy to look at his selection and call it a good one based on his potential to bulk up and still retain his edge. He didn't. He lost that edge. But if slimming down helps him get it back and the new 49ers' coaching staff feels he can contribute, then Carradine becoming a productive player, even in a scheme he isn't a perfect fit in, isn't such a stretch.

Why he might regress

Carradine is 27 years old, a bit older than you'd hope given his lack of playing time but obviously he has less wear on his body. Still, his reported struggles with the playbook in 2014 despite his ACL injury and ability to study the thing for his entire rookie season, are concerning. Will he pick up this new defense quickly enough? He can't get by on athleticism in the NFL, even if he sheds the pounds he needs to shed and even if the 49ers put him in the best situation to succeed. Is he a bust? Maybe.

Odds of making the roster

Unless the 49ers find a way to get some value out of him in a trade with a 4-3 team, his high ceiling alone mean he's a lock for the roster going forward. He had the ceiling and the look of a player who you have to get on the field in some way, and the 49ers will do that. Whether he succeeds once he's on said field is another matter entirely.