COLLEGE STATION, TX - NOVEMBER 24: Luke Joeckel #76 of the Texas A&M Aggies is seen on the field during the game against the Missouri Tigers at Kyle Field on November 24, 2012 in College Station, Texas. (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)
The San Francisco 49ers have found their apparent replacement for departed free safety Dashon Goldson, perhaps the biggest need for the reigning NFC champions.
San Francisco selected free safety Eric Reid out of LSU with the 18th pick in the NFL draft on Thursday night after trading up to get the selection from the Dallas Cowboys. Making the move shows just how much the team believes it could have an immediate-impact player for the 2013 season.
"Unanimous decision that Eric Reid was our pick," coach Jim Harbaugh said on the team website.
Safety was considered a significant need by general manager Trent Baalke for the 49ers, who lost Goldson to Tampa Bay at the start of the league's free agency period in March.
Reid played three seasons for LSU and is still considered a raw talent in pass coverage, though he thrives in stopping the run. He could make an immediate impact on kick coverage.
In 39 career college games with 26 starts over three seasons for the Tigers, the 6-foot-1, 213-pound Reid finished with 199 tackles, six interceptions, two forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries, 11 pass breakups and 4 ½ tackles for loss. The speedy defender's father, Eric Sr., was a three-time All-American hurdler at LSU and NCAA champion in the 110-meter hurdles in 1987.
"It really stands out," Harbaugh said. "He believes that he's a winner all the way and champion kind of guy and football player. I can't wait to have him here in our home in Santa Clara. I'm sure he's excited to have the process start and know the team that wanted him the most."
The two-time defending NFC West champion Niners gave up their selection at 31st overall to the Cowboys as well as No. 74 in the third round. San Francisco began the day with 13 picks.
As with any player in Harbaugh's system, Reid will have to win a starting job during training camp.
"It's a meritocracy," Harbaugh said. "We have excellent football players on our roster that have been working extremely hard. But there's no question there's quite a bit of competition at the safety position."
Harbaugh recruited Reid to Stanford before taking the 49ers job in January 2011. The coach said Reid would likely arrive at team headquarters Saturday.
"According to his mother, who is a very honest person, she said this is where she wanted to see Eric and this is where Eric wanted to be," Harbaugh said. "Wonderful, wonderful, very happy about it."
49ers CEO Jed York posted on Twitter the news that his team had traded up by saying, "On the clock."
There will be many more chances to be on the clock, too, as the 49ers work to build a roster they believe can return to the Super Bowl and win it this time. San Francisco lost 34-31 to Harbaugh's big brother, John, and the Baltimore Ravens on Feb. 3 in New Orleans.
The Niners are expected to add depth to a depleted defensive line after losing nose tackle Isaac Sopoaga and defensive tackle Ricky Jean Francois in free agency.
"The excitement's in the air. It has been all day," Harbaugh said. "A lot of the angst, if you will, has not really been in here, in our building. It's been an air of excitement. You watch it unfold and you get one of the players that you really wanted and excited to add more."
Reid became just the second LSU safety to be selected in the first round, joining LaRon Landry, who was taken in the opening round by Washington in 2007.