Last year at this time the San Francisco 49ers were entering their first organized team activities under a new head coach and front office who were intent on turning the roster over. With a draft class that boasted two first-round picks there was little question that there would be opportunity for rookies to make an impact, and several Day 3 draftees would wind up making significant contributions, two fifth-round choices (George Kittle and Trent Taylor) and a seventh-rounder (Adrian Colbert). So, who among this year’s class is poised to play above his draft position?
The 2018 draft class features some intriguing value picks. Cornerback D.J. Reed, taken in the fifth round, is chief among them. In a crowded secondary, slot/nickel corner currently offers the quickest path to playing time and at 5’9”, 188 pounds, Reed’s physical profile makes him ideally suited for the slot/nickel corner spot. Incumbent starter K’Waun Williams and do-everything defensive back Jimmy Ward would likely occupy the first two spots on the depth chart. During a recent press conference, head coach Kyle Shanahan said that Ward could very-well be the primary backup at all five defensive back spots, but Ward’s injury history and the laws of physics make that a tricky proposition thus giving Reed a clearly defined path to playing time. Reed also brings versatility (he spent time at free safety in addition to corner during the team’s rookie mini-camp) and outstanding special teams ability to the table. Reed ranked second in the NCAA in both kickoff and punt return average.
Reed does not lack for heart or confidence and he leverages his unique physical traits (31-inch arm length and 10-inch hands) to make plays on the ball. Reed’s aggressive style would seem to be a perfect fit defensive coordinator Robert Saleh’s “All gas, no brakes” defensive philosophy. You can get a sense for the work ethic and attitude Reed brings to the 49ers here.
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