There was much talk before the start of the NFL Draft Thursday night that if the 49ers made a bold move up in the first round, it would be to take a defensive lineman or an offensive playmaker such as wide receiver Tavon Austin.
Others thought that because the Niners’ biggest need was at safety with the departure of Dashon Goldson – and the crop of safeties was deep – that San Francisco might just stay put with the 31st pick and take a safety.
Turns out both camps were a little bit right and a little bit wrong.
The 49ers moved up 13 spots in the first round to grab safety Eric Reid of LSU, a player they believed was at the top of his safety class.
Yet in making such a steep move up – trading places with the Dallas Cowboys – they paid a very low price, able to keep both second-round picks Friday. The Cowboys received the 49ers’ original 31st spot, plus a third-round choice this year, No. 74 overall.
Though the price was relatively inexpensive to move up much higher in the first round, it caused some observers to shake their heads. With so many good safeties still available, why make the move?
Gregg Rosenthal of NFL.com noted that the 49ers are always good for a first-round surprise, and this one ranks up there with the pick of A.J. Jenkins in 2012 and Aldon Smith in 2011.
“Reid is a toolsy talent who had a huge junior season, followed by a so-so-senior year,” Rosenthal wrote. “This is one of those picks where general manager Trent Baalke and coach Jim Harbaugh get the benefit of the doubt. If the Cincinnati Bengals made this pick, folks would criticize it. Since the 49ers made it, we’re just going to assume it works out well.”
Reid, who is 6-foot-1 and 213 pounds, had 91 tackles last season and two interceptions. Niners’ head coach Harbaugh said he was a guy the valued much higher than other top-ranked safeties in the draft, though it was said to be a strong crop.
“Unanimous decision that Eric Reid was our pick,” Harbaugh said.
Reid, who was recruited by Harbaugh when Harbaugh was at Stanford, said he was ecstatic to be taken by the 49ers.
In describing himself, he sounds as if he’ll be defensive coordinator Vic Fangio’s dream addition at safety.
“I’m a very cerebral player,” Reid told Cam Inman of the Bay Area News Group. “I pride myself on knowing the defense, getting guys lined up on the scene.”
In addition to adding Reid to the safety combination of Donte Whitner and free-agent pickup Craig Dahl there is this:
The Niners didn’t give up either of their second-round picks, and still have one in the third. Despite a bold move upward, Friday can be a very productive day.