Tatum Bethune has a major Achilles heel that should worry 49ers fans

Tatum Bethune already has an uphill climb to make the Niners' 53-man roster, but this one attribute could easily work against him his rookie year.
San Francisco 49ers linebacker Tatum Bethune
San Francisco 49ers linebacker Tatum Bethune / Michael Zagaris/GettyImages

The 49ers' final pick of the 2024 NFL Draft, Tatum Bethune, has promising traits. But this particular element to his game isn't one of them.

The San Francisco 49ers' last selection of their 2024 NFL Draft class, former Florida State linebacker Tatum Bethune, has a pretty clear pathway to making the regular-season 53-man roster in year one.

Despite being a seventh-round pick on an already-stacked roster, Bethune's chances are aided by the fact the Niners lost linebacker Oren Burks to free agency and may also likely be without star linebacker Dre Greenlaw, who suffered a serious Achilles tear in last February's Super Bowl and could miss time at the start of the season.

That said, the undersized former Seminole faces some long odds at surviving roster cuts.

At 6-foot-0 and 229 pounds, Bethune made up for his relative lack of size with strong instincts.

Those helped him turn into a reliable defender over his final two years at Florida State after transferring from the University of Central Florida.

Tatum Bethune Florida State stats







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In coverage, Bethune emulates what a modern-day linebacker should do when matching up with smaller tight ends and running backs. While not the fastest defender on the field, Bethune nevertheless uses his skill set to avoid being too far out of position.

However, his size works against him. And that also leads to another area of concern fans should have as the linebacker prepares for his rookie year.

The top concern facing Tatum Bethune in 2024

Undersized linebackers can have success at the NFL level. Just ask San Francisco fans of the one-year wonder, Chris Borland, who broke onto the scene in 2014 before abruptly retiring the following season.

Borland was a superior prospect, though, and Bethune potentially faces a challenge that'll make it difficult for him to hang around on the 49ers' regular-season roster, particularly if he's viewed as little more than a backup and special teams contributor.


Check out two separate scouting reports that both highlight this negative trait, the first from NFL.com's Lance Zierlein:

"Bethune can be unorthodox, and he'll miss more tackles than you'd like, but he's productive, with a feel for the game that could see him land as a Day 3 linebacker with backup potential inside."

And from FSU Wire's Ryan Fowler:

"While he can tackle straight up, Bethune displays a slower chase-down speed that leads to him getting beat and being unable to make the tackle. Bethune has a higher rate of missed tackles than some teams may care for, but working on his strength can fix this."

Missing tackles can certainly work against the seventh-round rookie, especially when the margins for making the cut are already slim.

Can Tatum Bethune overcome this negative attribute?

As Fowler noted, Bethune still has room to add functional weight to his frame. Combined with some proper coaching and improved technique, Bethune might be able to correct the missed-tackling dilemma.

It won't be automatic, however.

The Niners prided themselves on avoiding missed tackles a year ago, boasting the second-fewest in the league with just 69. While many a first-year player can struggle in this department, San Francisco's current roster makeup won't afford Bethune a slew of chances to take his time developing here.

Even if Greenlaw is absent to start 2024, the 49ers already boast All-Pros in Fred Warner and De'Vondre Campbell, supported by another special teams ace, Demetrius Flannigan-Fowles, and two second-year pros in Dee Winters and Jalen Graham.

Should the Niners keep six linebackers, Bethune stands a modest chance. But it'd largely be on the laurels of some serious tackling improvement.

Otherwise, the rookie could easily find himself a victim of the numbers game.

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