49ers unfortunately gave up on this NFL Draft pick far too soon

Hindsight is 20-20, but we can safely say the Niners should never have let go of cornerback D.J. Reed.
San Francisco 49ers cornerback D.J. Reed
San Francisco 49ers cornerback D.J. Reed / Daniel Shirey/GettyImages

The 49ers probably would have been better off holding onto D.J. Reed instead of waiving him with an injury back in 2020.

Every single fifth-round NFL Draft selection the San Francisco 49ers have made under general manager John Lynch and head coach Kyle Shanahan dating back to 2017 is still in the league.

It's true. You can look it up (or just click here for verification).

Not every one of those selections is still with the Niners, though.

In 2018, San Francisco used a Round 5 draft selection on former Kansas State cornerback D.J. Reed, who was labeled as a "do it all" kind of defensive back, one who could patrol the boundary, serve at nickel or even operate as a safety.

That year, a down season for Shanahan and Co., Reed cut his teeth in the league with 41 tackles, three of which were for a loss, a sack and a forced fumble. The following season when the 49ers were reaching the Super Bowl, Reed remained a reserve but still saw action in 16 regular-season games, allowing a passer rating 123.3 before suffering an injury the following offseason that subsequently led to the Niners waiving him with an injury designation before the start of the 2020 season.

San Francisco ideally wanted to slip Reed through waivers and onto an injury list, but the Seattle Seahawks swooped in and claimed him.

It worked out for both Reed and the Hawks, and he hasn't allowed a passer rating north of 100 since that point, emerging as one of the better cornerbacks in the league today.

D.J. Reed's career took off after departing 49ers

Reed became a key component of Seattle's secondary the next two seasons, starting 24 games during that span while recording four interceptions and 17 pass breakups.

While injuries were still a concern, Reed nevertheless translated his success over into a solid free-agent deal with the New York Jets in 2022, reuniting with his former 49ers defensive coordinator, now-Jets head coach Robert Saleh.

Over the last two seasons in the Big Apple, Reed has appeared in 32 games and recorded two more interceptions, 21 passes defended and two forced fumbles.

It's fair to wonder what could have been if the Niners held onto Reed instead of waiving him back in 2020. Perhaps in that 2021 season when Reed would have been entering a contract year, San Francisco's secondary wouldn't have been such a big liability (remember Josh Norman?), which ultimately cost the team big in that season's NFC Championship game.

Who knows how it all would have panned out? But, given how Reed has emerged as an excellent corner in recent years, it's fair to state the 49ers shouldn't have given up on him when they did.

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