After having traded down to the 40th pick from the 34th pick in the second round of the 2013 NFL Draft, the San Francisco 49ers selected Cornellious “Tank” Carradine. Carradine was a defensive end at Florida State, and although he is coming off an ACL injury, his rehab at this stage suggests that Carradine should be ready to go at the start of the 2013 NFL season. Aside from being a physically gifted individual at 6 feet 4 inches tall and 276 pounds, what can a second round pick who if not coming off an ACL injury might have been a first round pick bring to an already solid 49ers defense? The answer to this question is twofold.
The first noticeable attribute that Carradine brings is that of proven production. Unlike others who were highly drafted, namely Dion Jordan and Ezekiel Ansah who were drafted third and fifth overall by the Philadelphia Eagles and Detroit Lions respectively, Carradine had 16.5 sacks in 25 games as a Florida State player. Therefore if you subscribe to the philosophy of former Buccaneers and Falcons general manager Rich McKay which is that players who were productive in college will be productive as pros, then Carradine should be a productive pro.
The second if not the most important benefit in drafting Tank Carradine is that his presence will make the 49ers defense better by giving defensive coordinator Vic Fangio personnel options and flexibility. In the latter part of the regular season and then in the playoffs, opposing offenses began to roll protection and focus heavily on stopping and shutting down Aldon Smith. His ability to get to the quarterback was affected as he failed to record a sack in the playoffs. At the same time, the partially torn triceps injury sustained by Justin Smith in the Week 15 game against the New England Patriots contributed to hampering the ability of Aldon Smith to be as effective as he was previously as a pass rusher. Given that the 49ers are a team that rarely blitzes in order to pressure the opposing quarterback, the late season ineffectiveness of Aldon Smith and the defense as a whole in pressuring opposing quarterbacks made the need to add another pass rusher evident.
With Carradine, who one can assume will play as both a hand on the ground defensive end and stand-up linebacker depending on the personnel grouping on the field at the time, offenses will no longer be able to shift protection over on both Aldon and Justin Smith. They must now also take into account that there is another rusher on the field in Carradine. With two pass rushers at any given time on the field, this will help free up Aldon Smith from double teams, free up Justn Smith from facing double teams, give Patrick Willis and or Navorro Bowman the opportunity to rush the quarterback on a delayed stunt if possible, and give the secondary, clearly the weakest unit of the 49ers defense, the opportunity to play better and make plays by not having to engage in pass coverage longer than needed.
As for personnel, the drafting of Carradine can allow Vic Fangio to decide to bring him on as a defensive end and go with other outside linebacker options on any given down or go with Glenn Dorsey, who was signed as a free agent in the offseason and have Carradine be an outside linebacker in that particular package. For these reasons, Tank Carradine and his presence will make the 49ers defense better in 2013 than it was in 2012.