When the San Francisco 49ers jumped up 13 spots to No. 18 overall in the first-round of the 2013 NFL Draft, it was clear that they had targeted a specific player. That player was safety Eric Reid out of LSU. Reid was drafted to take over for and fill the void left behind by strong safety Dashon Goldson who signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as a free agent. At times it can be difficult to ask for a rookie to come into a well-oiled unit like the 49ers defense and slot in seamlessly, but that was what Eric Reid did in his rookie season.
In a rookie season which saw Reid play in the Pro Bowl, he ended the regular season with 77 combined tackles, two fumble recoveries and four interceptions while during the postseason Reid had 14 combined tackles. What the numbers don’t show is that in many ways Reid made the 49ers better by taking over for Goldson.
Beginning in mini-camps, Reid impressed his coaches and teammates with his high IQ as a defensive player, and when training camp came around, Reid continued to impress everyone with his ability to pick up many of the intricacies of the 49ers’ defensive schemes as he soaked up everything he was being taught in film study like a sponge. While Reid was not christened as a starter at the beginning of training camp, he slowly moved up the depth chart with some fine performances in the preseason.
During the regular season, Reid showed why the 49ers jumped up 18 spots in the draft to get him as he was a very important and productive player on a defense that finished in the top-five. Reid did a very good job of playing the run when asked to come up and play in the box. While there were times he got beat, Reid proved to be a more than capable cover safety with room to grow and improve his coverage skills. And to top it off, the ball-hawking and ability to deliver a hard hit was seen on a number of occasions as his four interceptions can testify to this point.
It is not easy to come into a situation where you are asked to replace a Pro Bowler the season before and do so without disrupting the flow and chemistry from a top-five defense where everyone else is a returning starter. Yet Eric Reid came in and not only slotted in seamlessly, but it is fair to say that he far surpassed all expectations while doing many things better than the man he replaced.