DE Cornellius “Tank” Carradine, Florida State
Drafted: Second Round, No. 40
Despite trading down in the second round, the 49ers found one of the best steals in the draft by selecting defensive end Tank Carradine. Most NFL mock drafts had Carradine being selected in the middle of the first round which is why this pick received an A-. Carradine showed in college he was an excellent pass rusher and he should be able to transition quickly to the NFL. Tank will likely be the heir apparent to Justin Smith on the defensive line. But if anything for the next one to two seasons he will provide a great addition to the rotation on the D-line, plus give the Niners insurance in case Justin is injured again. We all saw what happened to the defenses push rush with Justin not playing.
STRENGTHS – Carradine’s production in his first, and only, season as a starter at Florida State was impressive. You would never guess that he has limited starting experience when you see his variety of polished pass rush moves. He uses his hands extremely well to slap the pass blocker’s hands down to stay free and can beat him inside or around the corner. Outstanding technique taking on run blocker at the POA, Carradine jolts blocker upright, holds ground, sheds and makes tackle consistently on runs at him. When left unblocked on the backside he does an excellent job of maintaining backside contain and making sure the play is going away before crashing down the LOS. When offenses try to “reach block” him on the backside he gets inside blocker consistently, keeps blocker on back and has elite speed chasing down the play in pursuit. On the handful of snaps that Carradine dropped off the ball into coverage he looked surprisingly smooth and fluid moving out in space and seemed to have a good sense and awareness.
WEAKNESSES – Obviously, the most pressing question surrounds Carradine’s recovery from the torn right ACL that he suffered in the fourth quarter against Florida. If NFL medical personnel determine that he will make a full recovery then he will likely be a first round pick. Despite being an elite pass rusher, Carradine lacks an explosive first step off the ball. In addition to his recovery from injury, Carradine’s lack of playing experience is a concern because players who only started one year in college have a history of failure in the NFL. This is an even bigger concern because he did not even complete one full season as a starter after injuring his knee.
SUMMARY – In the first few games evaluating Florida State, Carradine impressed me and then the more film I evaluated he continued to jump off the film. For a player with limited experience, I was shocked at how instinctive, smart and technically sound he is. Displaying great competitiveness on every snap, Carradine made a ton of plays through sheer effort and hustle chasing down ball carriers 10+ yards down the field. Although he was often the last defensive linemen moving at the snap, he was by far the most productive of Florida State’s defensive linemen in the five games evaluated – He was involved in 1 play out of every 7.31 snaps which is a rare ratio and usually that of a Top Five Overall Pick. In the end, Carradine’s play on the field no doubt warrants being picked in the Top Ten, but the health of his right knee will be the primary determining factor in where he gets drafted. If his knee checks out and NFL medical personnel feel that he will return to 100% within a season or two then he will likely be a first round pick, but if there are any medical questions he will slide into the second round. I believe that while he will likely need a season to get back to 100%, by the 2014 season he will be a starting defensive end and eventually a high end starter.
Click here to see the 49ers 2013 draft grades for rounds 1-5.