Final grades come in for 49ers rookies
The San Francisco 49ers finished 2013 season with 18 rookies in the organization.
Here are grades for the Niners rookie class, which includes 10 draft picks and eight undrafted free agents.
S Eric Reid
The first-round pick from LSU became the first 49ers rookie defensive back to make the Pro Bowl since Ronnie Lott in 1981. That’s elite company.
Reid replaced departed Pro Bowl free safety Dashon Goldson, starting all 19 games — including the playoffs — and totaling 91 tackles, four interceptions, two fumble recoveries and 12 passes defensed.
Two concussions forced Reid to alter his hard-hitting style which bodes well for his health and the likelihood that he will be patrolling the 49ers secondary at a high level for a long time.
DT Tank Carradine
A second-round pick who would have been a first-rounder had he not torn his ACL at Florida State in Nov. 2012, Carradine spent much of the year on the reserve/non-football injury list before being activated on Oct. 29. He never played in a game.
His season ended when he was placed on injured reserve on Dec. 10. When healthy, Carradine lives in opposing backfields and the 49ers are hopeful he will make an impact in 2014.
TE Vance McDonald
The 49ers selected the big wide receiver from Rice in the second-round and converted him to tight end hoping to fill some of the offensive void left by versatile tight end Delanie Walker who signed with the Titans.
McDonald played in 15 games — starting four — but recorded just eight receptions for 119 yards on 19 targets including three drops.
He showed flashes of potential as a down field target, making four catches of 19-plus yards, yet spent most of his 494 offensive snaps as a run blocker which he rarely did in college.
San Francisco needs consistent blocking, multi-catch games and touchdowns from McDonald next season.
OLB Corey Lemonier
Picked in the third-round, the Auburn standout stepped into the nickel pass rusher role for five games beginning in Week 4 after outside linebacker Aldon Smith entered substance abuse rehab and Dan Skuta took his starting spot in the 3-4.
The 49ers won five consecutive games with the Skuta-Lemonier tandem.
Lemonier’s top performance came in Week 6 when he notched a sack for safety on Arizona quarterback Carson Palmer and later forced running back Alfonso Smith to fumble.
Lemonier finished the season with 15 tackles and was a regular contributor on special teams. Lemonier could be starting on the outside before his contract expires in 2016.
WR Quinton Patton
The highly praised, sure-handed fourth-round wide receiver out of Louisiana Tech was limited in camp with a broken finger, but showed excellent preseason rapport with quarterback Colin Kaepernick when he caught two touchdowns punctuating each with a saucy dance.
Patton later missed 10 games with a broken foot and finished the year with three catches for 34 yards and a 26-yard carry on reverse.
However, he did supplant veteran Mario Manningham as the No. 3 wideout and will be working out with Kaepernick this off-season.
Patton plays the slot and outside, possesses vise grip hands, yards-after-catch potential and return specialist ability. Patton is a weapon the 49ers need healthy.
RB Marcus Lattimore
Likely the best running back in the 2013 draft, Lattimore fell to the 49ers in the fifth-round after rehabbing from a gruesome knee injury suffered st South Carolina in 2012.
Lattimore worked hard with strength and conditioning coaches during training camp and began the year on the reserve/non-football injury list.
He was able to practice for a three-week window before being placed on injured reserve in early-Dec. Many have pegged him as the heir to Frank Gore, Lattimore will have an opportunity to contribute next season.
NT Quinton Dial
The fifth-round pick from Alabama spent all camp and six weeks of the regular-season rehabbing a toe injury.
Dial was elevated to the active roster as a nose tackle when injuries hit the defensive line and made his debut in Week 11 against the Titans.
He recorded one tackle in three games, but was inactive for much of the season. Dial is healthy now, but faces stiff competition from returning starter Glenn Dorsey, Week 1 starter Ian Williams and practice squad standout Mike Purcell.
ILB Nick Moody
The Florida State alum played the outside in college and was drafted in the sixth-round to be a special teams ace, but a training camp injury to All-Pro middle linebacker Patrick Willis (broken hand) pressed him into preseason action inside where he impressively recorded 20 tackles.
Unfortunately Moody broke his own hand in Week 1 and was placed on the injured reserve with designation to return list until he came back in mid-Nov.
Moody finished the year with four tackles in four games. Now with All-Pro middle linebacker NaVorro Bowman out with a serious ACL/MCL injury, Moody and Michael Wilhoite compete for playing time.
OT Carter Bykowski
The seventh-round pick from Iowa struggled in the preseason, but improved while spending the year on the practice squad as the 10th offensive lineman working with the second unit in practice.
Bykowski is developing as swing tackle and will contend for roster spot backing up tackles Joe Staley and Anthony Davis. His big competition will be Luke Marquardt, but another year on the scout team is very much a possibility.
OG Ryan Seymour
Seattle’s seventh-round pick, Seymour was signed off the Seahawks practice squad when Carradine went to IR.
He was on the 53-man roster for the rest of the season, but saw no action as the eighth offensive lineman. Seymour worked with the second unit in practice and became a well-liked personality in the locker room.
He is versatile enough to play anywhere on the line, all of which increases the odds of him making the team again.
LS Kevin McDermott
In one of the few surprises out of training camp, the undrafted UCLA product beat out San Francisco’s 13-year veteran Brian Jennings — a two-time Pro Bowl selection — for the long snapping job.
McDermott went on to work the entire season in tandem with punter Andy Lee and kicker Phil Dawson without botching a snap and looked very much like a young Jennings.
In particular, McDermott uses perfect technique in adjusting his arm strength on deep and short snaps. He also holds his coverage lane on punts and should hold down this position for the next dozen years.
CB Darryl Morris
The undrafted Texas State speedster started the season on the practice squad after competing throughout camp with seventh-rounder Marcus Cooper who the Chiefs later claimed off waivers.
Morris was promoted to the active roster for depth in Week 4 with cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha injured. Morris appeared in 13 games primarily as a special teamer where he excelled.
His season highlight came in Week 7 at Tennessee when gunned down field on punt coverage pressuring returner Darius Reynaud to muff the catch which Kassim Osgood recovered for a touchdown.
Morris totaled six tackles for the year and was active for all three playoff games. He will compete for a larger role this off-season especially with corners Tarell Brown, Perrish Cox and Eric Wright all free agents and veteran Carlos Rogers in salary cap limbo.
NT Mike Purcell
The undrafted Wyoming product was a solid practice squad player who had a strong preseason recording a sack and pass deflection at Kansas City.
Purcell was in the mix with Dial to be elevated to the 53-man roster, but it never manifested. He could be a rotational player and looks to compete with Dial, Dorsey and Williams in camp.
Purcell is versatile enough to run block in jumbo packages like two-way players Will Tukuafu and Demarcus Dobbs.
WR Chuck Jacobs
The versatile receiver and return specialist from Utah State was undrafted and spent 2013 on the practice squad.
Jacobs shined in the preseason with two fourth quarter touchdown receptions from seventh-round pick B.J. Daniels who the Seahawks eventually claimed off waivers.
Jacobs has a legit shot a claiming one of the wide receiver jobs next season.
CB Dax Swanson
The Colts waived the undrafted Sam Houston State corner on Oct. 29 and the 49ers signed him to the practice squad on Nov. 18 after Brown suffered a rib injury and Cox was released.
He spent the year mimicking opposing defense backs for the receiving corps during practice. Like others, Swanson will compete for a roster spot in camp, but could find himself in a similar scout team role next season.
FB Alex Debniak
The undrafted Stanford outside linebacker switched to fullback compete for a backup role to Bruce Miller himself an ex-defensive end, but a torn Achilles during OTAs ended his season.
Debniak is now healthy and ready to compete. He’s a do-it-all player who competes hard and a dark horse candidate to land a roster spot.
OT Luke Marquardt
The walking wall (6-8, 317) went undrafted after missing his senior year at Azusa Pacific due to the same foot injury that kept him on the NFI list this season.
Marquardt practiced with the team during the same three-week window that Lattimore did before going on injured reserve for the year. He’s a converted tight end who can develop into a swing tackle and he will be competing with Bykowski for a job.
DL Lawrence Okoye
The British junior rugby wing turned Olympic discus thrower turned defensive lineman hurt his knee in a preseason game against the Vikings and spent the year on injured reserve.
A football novice at best, Okoye spent the year learning the game from defensive line coach Jim Tomsula, cheering from the sideline, studying tape, taking mental reps and watching practice.
Okoye will compete with the veterans in camp, but a year on the practice squad would be good for him.
The 49ers put together a strong rookie class with long-term potential more reminiscent of the 2011 group than the 2012 debacle.