DE/OLB Corey Lemonier, Auburn
Drafted: Third round, No. 88
While at Auburn, Lemonier played mostly at defensive end. But with the San Francisco 49ers he will transition to playing outside linebacker. The 49ers apparently did not show much interest in Lemonier leading to the NFL draft and thus he was surprised San Francisco called his name, saying, “I’m really surprised because I haven’t talked to them or anything like that.”
This was all according to plan as 49ers general manager Trent Baalke said after the draft the team did not talk to Lemonier at the NFL Combine to keep their interest in the player not known. Baalke and company saw a player they wanted and traded up five spots to land Lemonier.
Playing defensive end at Auburn, Lemonier had 17 sacks in three seasons, which included 15 sacks in 17 games. One reason Lemonier will move to outside linebacker is because of his size and speed. He will have a great mentor in Aldon Smith who also transitioned from playing defensive end in college to playing outside linebacker in the NFL.
STRENGTHS – Lemonier has very good height, length and bulk for the position and with time in an NFL weight room, should be able to pack on additional muscle to his frame. He consistently demonstrates explosive speed off the snap, and flashes the agility and quickness to be a constant pass rush threat on the edge. He looks comfortable and fluid dropping into coverage, and does an excellent job of reading his keys and locating the ball quickly.
WEAKNESSES – While he consistently defeats his man on the edge, Lemonier tends to get upright once free, which limits his ability to change directions and finish at the QB. His upright play also causes him to miss high on too many tackles that he should be able to lower his shoulder and explode through. He is not aggressive with his hands, which makes it too easy for blockers to lock onto him and sustain blocks, in particular against the run.
SUMMARY – Corey Lemonier is certainly not without his faults as a prospect, but he has outstanding potential as an edge rusher and the natural instincts to help him transition to a new position at the NFL level. His combination of speed, agility and explosiveness makes him a constant edge threat, and he possesses the quickness needed to employ a wide array of moves in space. While he constantly pressured the QB in games I graded, he did not finish as often as he is clearly capable of in large part to his bad habit of getting upright and a bit rigid. However, he displays enough fluidity at the LOS and dropping into coverage to lead me to believe this is a very coachable issue. He must also improve his hand usage, as he does not do a good job of fighting off blockers at the LOS and can be particularly exposed on inside runs. While his flaws may be enough to scare some teams into waiting for him to fall to day two, I expect others to fall in love with his explosiveness off the ball as well as his read and react skills. He would be an outstanding fit in Pittsburgh or San Francisco, with teams that run 34 fronts and will be patient with his development.
Click here to see the 49ers 2013 draft grades for rounds 1-5.