Sometimes nicknames are given ironically. That is certainly not the case with ‘Tank' Carradine. He is a big, strong, explosive player. The former Seminole is coming off an ACL tear in the Nov. 24 game against Florida, but should be fully recovered for training camp. Had Carradine finished the season healthy, there's a good chance he would have been drafted at a similar position to Sheldon Richardson: midway through the first round.
Other factors, including having to attend junior college after signing with Illinois, caused his stock to drop. And despite showing a high level of talent and ability, there isn't a large body of work against elite competition to evaluate. He registered 11 sacks in 11 games prior to getting hurt, but it's worth mentioning 5.5 of them came in the first three weeks of the season against Murray State, Wake Forest and Clemson.
But Carradine was a highly productive player. He had 11-tackle performances twice against Virginia Tech and Florida. When healthy, he's an explosive player with the versatility to play on the defensive line or the outside edge.
Once fully recovered from the knee injury, look for Carradine to become a regular player in the front-seven's rotation, especially in passing situations. He will likely play a similar role to Aldon Smith in his rookie year, when he was on the field almost exclusively to rush the passer before gradually turning into an every-down player. Carradine might also be groomed to become the long-term replacement to Justin Smith, who turns 34 in September.
Coming into the draft, there was a clear need for pass rushers and depth on the front seven. The 49ers addressed both those needs with Carradine, who has the potential to become a very good player on a very good defense.
Draft Grade: A
Delanie Walker played an important role in the team's offense, leaving a big hole when he left in free agency. It was clear the 49ers would be looking for a versatile tight end that could block and become a downfield weapon opposite Vernon Davis. In McDonald, it appears San Francisco found just that, but he will need to develop.
At Rice, McDonald spent the early portion of his career as a slot receiver and didn't do much blocking. He has the size and strength (evident by his 31 reps of 225 pounds at the combine) to become a very good blocker, but it will take some work by the 49ers' coaching staff.
McDonald wasn't a big recruit out of Winnie, Texas. But his collegiate production outweighed his lack of recruitment. He was the Owl's top receiving option in 2010, making 28 catches (eight touchdowns) for 396 yards. The next year he caught 43 balls for 452 yards.
Greg Roman's offense calls for a tight end that can block both on the line and in space. That will be the biggest adjustment for McDonald coming into the NFL, as he will be asked to clear running lanes in the team's complicated ground scheme.
Given his size, versatility and athleticism, McDonald appears to be a very capable second tight end with a high ceiling. But because the team passed on Stanford's Zach Ertz earlier in the round, it's hard to give a perfect grade for this selection.
Draft Grade: B+
With the selection of Lemonier (pronounced Lemon-WAH), it was clear Baalke went into the draft with the emphasis of improving the defensive front, especially the pass rush. Lemonier was selected to the SEC's first team as a sophomore, indicating a high level of potential. That year, he had 9.5 sacks, but saw a drop off in numbers in his junior season, when he registered 5.5.
If Lemonier had maintained his production from his sophomore season, he likely would have gone much higher. His long build translates well to what the 49ers like to do with outside pass rushers. Baalke believes he can be coached up to become a valuable addition to the front seven.
Physically, Lemonier can be the stiff in the hips and might not possess strong enough hands to shed blocks effectively. He will need to get stronger and add weight to be more effective against NFL tackles, but has the ability to line up on either side of the formation. He might struggle against the run initially.
There's a strong chance Lemonier will be added to the rotation, but will see a limited number of snaps early on. He will be the primary backup to Aldon Smith and Ahmad Brooks eventually and could get on the field with those two in long-yardage situations to get to the quarterback. He certainly has the speed, posting a 4.6 in the 40-yard dash at the combine.
The difficulty in grading this selection is not knowing which Lemonier the team is getting. Will it be the ultra-productive pass rusher from his sophomore season or the less-productive junior? It's difficult not to give the team's defensive coaching staff the benefit of the doubt, but Lemonier might have the most "bust" potential of any of the early-round picks, for what it's worth.
Draft Grade: B+
As far as numbers go, there might not have been a more productive receiver in the country than Patton, who somehow fell all the way the end of the fourth round. In his two seasons at LA Tech, he amassed 2,594 receiving yards and caught 14 touchdowns. In his final season, he earned first-team All-WAC honors and was a second-team All American.
Patton ran a 4.53 at the combine and possesses fluid body control, good size and acceleration off the line. It's hard to find weaknesses in his game, although he sometimes struggles making catches when heavily contested by defensive backs. He came into the draft with momentum after a good showing in the Senior Bowl and projected much higher than where he was selected.
Wide receiver wasn't the team's biggest need heading into the draft, but at the end of the fourth round, Baalke and his scouts must have believed Patton was too valuable to pass at that point.
Patton will join a crowded group of receivers and will compete with Marlon Moore, A.J. Jenkins, Mario Manningham and Kyle Williams for snaps. The latter two are coming off ACL tears that ended their 2012 season prematurely and will have to prove their health in training camp. A knock on Patton might be his inability to contribute in the return game.
Considering his production, speed and route-running ability, it' surprising Patton fell so far in the draft after many considered him a fringe third-round pick. By no means are the 49ers set at receiver behind Anquan Boldin and Michael Crabtree, so the opportunity is there for Patton to earn a spot high on the team's depth chart.
Draft Grade A
With so many picks coming in, the 49ers were destined to make some luxury selections. Lattimore is clearly that. He might have been a first or second round pick had he not sustained his second major knee injury in as many seasons.
It's fitting that a team like San Francisco that relied so heavily on Frank Gore would take a flier on Lattimore. Like the former Gamecock, Gore fell in the draft because of his history of ACL injuries. In terms of running style and background, Lattimore is a near carbon copy of Gore and could be San Francisco's back of the future.
With Kendall Hunter, LaMichael James and Anthony Dixon already on the roster, there isn't an immediate need for running back. That will give the 49ers the luxury to stash Lattimore on the PUP list until healthy, which could give him the opportunity to have a "red shirt" season. If he's able to regain his pre-injury form, the 49ers could be adding a franchise running back for the small price of a late fourth-round pick. In the mean time, he will be a great addition to the locker room while he works to get back to playing shape.
As low risk as the pick seams, there's a chance Lattimore never returns to the player he was before his destructive knee injuries. But if he does, he might become one of the best picks of the entire draft. This selection's grade assumes the latter.
Draft Grade: A
Dial will join the 49ers as the third newcomer to the front seven taken in the draft. The versatile lineman only started one game in the Tide's championship season in 2011 because of the talent in front of him, but still had 24 tackles and a sack.
Because he started just once, there isn't a lot of production to judge Dial on. But he has the size and ability to play all three line positions in a 3-4 and could work his way into the rotation to spell some of the regulars. He will compete directly with Ian Williams and Tony Jerod-Eddie to back up Justin Smith, Ray McDonald and Glenn Dorsey.
The 49ers might have been able to trade up for Dial's former teammate with Alabama, Jesse Williams, who was taken by the Seahawks early in the fifth round. Although Williams was a far more productive player, they elected to not to, allowing him to go to a division rival. They also could have tried to get a corner with good size here, like LSU's Tharold Simon or Illinois' Terry Hawthorne. The team is hoping Dial can be coached up to become a regular contributor to a stout defensive front.
The grade for this pick is an indictment of not selecting a corner or Williams, rather than Dial's upside.
Draft Grade: C+
Round 6, Pick 12 (180) – Nick Moody (6'1", 236) LB Florida State
Moody played a roving safety position in Florida State's defense for a three of his four years before switching to linebacker as a senior. His best season came as sophomore when he made 79 tackles.
Considering the 49ers' crowded roster, Moody's shot at making the team will come in his ability to play on all four special teams units to replace free agent Tavares Gooden. He will need to add weight and strength. Moody is another low-risk, high-upside pick for San Francisco.
Draft Grade: B+
San Francisco made an interesting selection in Daniels, who represents the mobile quarterback archetype that's becoming very popular in the NFL. He was responsible for 77 touchdowns (52 passing, 25 rushing), while accumulating almost 11,000 total yards in his four-plus seasons with the Bulls. He red shirted in his freshman season after completing four passes and rushing three times.
The 49ers already have three quarterbacks in Colin Kaepernick, Colt McCoy and Scott Tolzein, but a strong camp could put Daniels in the discussion for a roster spot. He's far more mobile than Tolzein, which means less of an adjustment the team need to go to its third quarterback.
That being said, it's unlikely Daniels does any more than break the practice squad. Because of his production and fit, he's a good selection in the seventh round.
Draft Grade: B
It took the 49ers 10 picks before taking their first player from anywhere BUT a southern school. At 246 overall, the team opted for an offensive lineman that could provide some depth at tackle.
Originally projected as high as the fourth round, the 49ers were able to take a chance on the former tight end that could eventually become the team's backup swing tackle. By only dressing seven linemen on game days, versatility is paramount for backups and Bykowski has the ability to play on both sides.
If he develops into that player, it would allow San Francisco to keep Alex Boone at right guard should a starting tackle go down. As of now, Bykowski is the third tackle on the roster. He was a good value pick and could wind up filling an important need.
Draft Grade: A
The former receiver never cracked the starting lineup as a corner with Rutgers, but has a great deal of athleticism and potential. He ran a 4.45 40-yard dash and had a 39.5-inch vertical jump. He benched 225 pounds an impressive 20 times. At 6'2", he has ideal size for the modern corner.
Cooper comes to the NFL as a blank canvas blessed with physical gifts. Should he take well to coaching, there could be a lot of potential there. He can benefit from working with big corners Carlos Rogers and Nnamdi Asomugha.
For now, it will take a strong showing in training camp for Cooper to make the roster. But his physical traits could allow him to thrive on special teams. Otherwise he could be in line for a spot on the practice squad. There was nothing to lose by taking Cooper 252nd overall.
Draft Grade: B
The 49ers' 2013 draft class has a great deal of potential and fits very well with the current makeup of the roster. With 13 picks of ammunition to start with, the team was able to maneuver throughout the draft to find 11 players on the board it liked. Most importantly, Baalke and his staff found players at good values and didn't reach for talent.
Baalke filled immediate needs with his first three picks in Reid, Carradine and McDonald. He added quality depth with Lemonier, Patton and Bykowski. Moody, Daniels and Cooper were nice fliers to take in the seventh round.
There's a chance Lattimore becomes the most memorable name from this year's class.
The only critique of this draft is not selecting a corner before the seventh round. With Tarrell Brown in the final year of his deal, Rogers' $8 million cap hit in 2014 and the uncertainty of Asomugha, San Francisco could have used a corner to add to the mix.
Adding a talented corner now would have given that player a year to develop and step into a prominent role in 2014. Also that player would come at a much lower cap number than Brown or Rogers.
However, Chris Culliver still has a great deal of upside and has performed well, outside of the Super Bowl. Perrish Cox could also see an expanded role and still has plenty of upside. It's almost a certainty they will take a corner early in 2014's draft.
Bottom line: Trent Baalke and his staff filled needs and added quality players to compete for roster spots with every selection. Good teams build through the draft and there is a great deal of potential in the 49ers' new additions. San Francisco should remain a contender as long as it keeps having good drafts like this.
49ers 2013 Draft Grade: A-