Losing Dashon Goldson in free agency to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, it was clear that the San Francisco 49ers were going to draft a safety. Draft a safety they did as they jumped up thirteen spots, from 31 to 18 to draft Eric Reid out of LSU.
Reid comes into the NFL with impressive credentials as he was all-SEC first team in his senior season (2012) and was named on a number of first and second teams depending on the publication. Reid had the skills and the resume to justify the 49ers moving up to the 18th overall pick to draft him.
Reid comes into a situation where some of his skills and attributes remind many of those that Goldson had as a player while expected to play the same free safety position and take over as starter. Reid is similar to Goldson in that they are both hard-hitting safeties who are not afraid to hit a guy hard and let them know they are there. Like Goldson, Reid is just as capable of coming into the box to make a play on a ball carrier.
Unlike Goldson, Reid is better at being able to read plays and react immediately to make a play on the ball. His “nose for the ball” in his time at LSU saw Reid in the area to potentially make an interception or pounce on an opponents fumble. Reid’s coverage skills also give him an upper hand over Goldson in dealing with jump ball passes as his anticipation and reaction skills give him an upper hand in this department.
In organized team activities (OTAs), Reid has seen snaps at both the free safety and strong safety positions. He has taken snaps with the second team and first team, splitting time with C.J. Spillman and Craig Dahl, the players he will be battling for a starting spot.
Looking ahead to training camp, for Reid to show that he can be the opening week starter and a cog in a top defense, Reid will have to show the coaching staff that he has an understanding of the defense and the coverage schemes. At the same time, Reid will need to show improvement in two of his weakest areas as a safety.
Reid will need show he is a sound tackler as one of the critiques of him coming into the draft was he was not the soundest tackler for a safety. With the 49ers, a defense known for being exceptional at tackling, he will be expected to improve this facet of his game.
Reid will also need to demonstrate he can cover slot receivers in man on man situations. Given that now the likes of Percy Harvin and Tavon Austin will be playing the slot for NFC West foes, it will be incumbent on Reid to demonstrate he can handle these assignments when called upon.
Eric Reid certainly has the skill set to succeed and flourish with the 49ers at the free-safety position. Training camp will give us an indication as to how quickly and well he learns the defense and is able show that he deserves to be the undisputed starter.