The San Francisco 49ers have few needs going into the draft. Outside of their secondary, their only real needs are for depth. One of the positions they need some more depth at is the defensive line. Due to his age, defensive end Justin Smith is most likely on his way out in a year or two, and their other defensive end, Ray McDonald, likely has the same amount of time due to both age and salary. So, with the plethora of picks the 49ers have going into the draft, I expect them to take a defensive lineman in the mid-late rounds.
A defensive lineman that the 49ers might be paying close attention to is the defensive tackle out of Princeton, Caraun Reid. Reid is extremely versatile; Princeton had him lining up all over the defensive line, sometimes as a 0-technique, sometimes a 3-technique, and other times as a 5-technicque. To make it even more impressive, he was successful in all three spots. If he wasn’t in the backfield disrupting the play, he was standing his man up at the line of scrimmage, finding the ball, and in quick pursuit right there to make a play. He isn’t a giant at 6-foot-2, 302 pounds, but he’s compact, explosive, quick powerful, and has very good hands.
Against the run, Reid is very stingy. He doesn’t give up any ground and holds his spot on the line. Watching his tape, it doesn’t take long to notice that he is making the tackle, or right there helping with the tackle, on almost every single run. When the Tigers called up the blitz, Reid ended up in the backfield, disrupting the play.
On pass plays, Reid is equally impressive. If he doesn’t get to the quarterback, he has his arms in the air trying to knock the ball down. In his senior year at Princeton, he recorded 6.5 sacks and 11 tackles for loss. His bull rush is his best move for getting to the quarterback, but his swim move is also impressive. When he gets to the pros, he will need to develop more techniques if he wants to continue to get to the quarterback.
The 49ers typically work out of a 3-4 defense and have their linemen playing a 2-gap technique. If the 49ers drafted Reid, they would most likely use him to spell Smith and McDonald from time to time, but with Reid’s versatility, he could also be thrown in at nose tackle on passing downs just to shoot the gaps for a pass rush. Reid would provide the 49ers with a lot more freedom on their line. At times, Reid can be a one man wrecking crew on the line. Teamed up with the likes of Aldon Smith and Justin on a pass rush should be pretty scary for offensive linemen across the league.
Come draft day, Reid is looking like a fourth or fifth round pick, and very obtainable for the 49ers. As a rookie, I don’t see Reid as an every down lineman, but luckily for the 49ers, that’s not what they need at the moment. They have the luxury of being able to put Reid in situations that his skills are best suited for and develop him in other aspects, so that when guys like Justin and McDonald retire or move on, Reid will be ready to step up as an every down lineman.