Not everyone applauded when the San Francisco 49ers selected LSU safety Eric Reid in the first round of the NFL draft in April.
To some league analysts, Reid was a reach, especially when factoring in that San Francisco traded up 13 spots in the first round to select him. Former NFL scout and current NFL Network analyst Daniel Jeremiah, for instance, ranked Reid as the fifth best safety in the draft and wrote prior to the draft: “Teams are split on Eric Reid. He could easily go in the first round, but I didn’t think he played like a first-round guy this year.”
Yet when the 49ers drafted Reid, general manager Trent Baalke and head coach Jim Harbaugh indicated they were thrilled to get him.
Baalke, in fact, called Reid “a prototype safety,” lauding his size (6-foot-1, 210 pounds, with long arms) and speed. Baalke and his scouts had Reid rated as the No. 1 safety coming out this year.
“He’s smart, he’s tough, he’s a physical football player and we really felt he was an all-around safety,” Baalke told Bay Area reporters.
Now, Rob Rang, in a series for CBS Sports about 2013 draftees who best fit the schemes and needs of their teams, writes that Reid is a great fit in San Francisco and could make the team’s defense much better.
The reason: Reid, with 4.4 speed in the 40-yard dash, is a much faster player than former starting safety Dashon Goldson, who departed for Tampa Bay as a free agent this offseason.
“Like Goldson, Reid is a highly aggressive player who relishes contact, whether it comes in run support or when crushing receivers crossing the middle,” wrote Rang. “Perhaps his most intriguing trait – and where Reid will prove a significant upgrade over Goldson – lies with his range in coverage.” Rang wrote that Reid’s “length and speed” make him “a true center fielder capable of improving San Francisco’s coverage on deep passes, one of the few areas of relative weakness on a defense that ranked second in the NFL in points allowed per game (17.1).”
It’s still not certain, of course, that on opening day against the Packers Reid will be in the starting lineup. The 49ers this offseason signed veteran free-agent safety Craig Dahl, who played last season for the Rams. Reid admitted that in first workouts with the 49ers in organized team activities (OTAs) and the mandatory minicamp that he was in a bit of a daze, trying to adjust to the speed of the NFL game while being lost in the playbook and his reads.
But over the course of summer training camp and the exhibition games, it’s not a stretch to believe Reid will make some huge leaps forward and win a starting job for Game 1.
Baalke, after all, calls Reid “a heady ballplayer.”
“He triggers fast on the run, he reacts well to the pass and it’s about learning the angles of the pro game and learning the speed of the pro game," he said recently. "But I feel very confident that he’s going to be able to do that and do it quickly.”