When the 49ers traded up in the first round of last year’s draft to take LSU safety Eric Reid, some pundits questioned the move.
Yes, the 49ers needed a safety, they said. But why Reid?
ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr., for instance, rated Reid as the fourth best safety available in the draft, behind Kenny Vaccaro of Texas, Matt Elam of Florida and Tony Jefferson of Oklahoma.
Daniel Jeremiah of the NFL Network – a former NFL scout – wasn’t very excited by Reid, saying, “He misses too many tackles and he’s late off the hash too often.” Jeremiah listed Reid as the fifth-best safety available behind Vaccaro, Jonathan Cyprien of Florida International, Elam and South Carolina’s D.J. Swearinger.
Yet when the 49ers traded up into the 18th spot, they made Reid the No. 2 safety selected, behind only Vaccaro, who went three picks earlier to the Saints.
Now, with the 2013 season over, it’s obvious the 49ers knew what they were doing.
Reid had a terrific rookie season for the 49ers, earning the starting spot alongside Donte Whitner and replacing veteran Dashon Goldson, who left in free agency.
He had 77 tackles (third on the team), four interceptions, two fumble recoveries and 11 passes defensed, and was selected to play in the Pro Bowl (following the decision by several safeties not to play in the game). And, he proved he could be one of the hardest-hitting safeties in the league. He left an impression on opponents.
Reid and Vaccaro were selected as the safeties on the Pro Football Writers All-Rookie Team.
In assessing the 49ers’ 2013 draft, Bill Williamson of ESPN.com, who covers the Niners, wrote that Reid proved to be ready for the NFL.
“He showed the game is not too big for him,” Williamson wrote. “Reid was very polished and he seems like he will be a big part of the team’s future for many years.”
For his part, Reid thoroughly enjoyed his first season as a pro. He wrote recently on the 49ers’ website that it was a dream come true to finally play in the NFL.
“I just wish I could have played a little bit better, had a couple of plays where I could have done better,” he wrote. “Maybe it would have changed the outcome of our last game. But I can’t be more thankful for the guys on the team and the coaches who have helped mold me to be the player that I am now. I just see great things in the future. I’m going to take a little time off and come back ready to work to be better.”
One of the things that excites 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh about Reid is his intelligence, and the fact Reid improved steadily in his rookie season.
“He’s been outstanding,” Harbaugh said during the season. “And he’s better than the player he was when he first got here. And he’s not the player that he’s going to be, either. There’s a lot of room for growth and improvement. He’s been a continuos-effort guy, continuous striving to get better, and that bodes well for him and us.”