AUBURN, Ala. – Corey Lemonier became the first Auburn player selected in the 2013 NFL Draft Friday night, taken late in the third round by the NFC Champion San Francisco 49ers.
The 6-foot-3, 255-pound Lemonier, a defensive end who is considering making the switch to outside linebacker in the 49ers’ 3-4 scheme, was the 88th overall pick.
“In 29 years, we’ve never had a harder worker out here in Arizona than Corey,” said Eric Metz, Lemonier’s Scottsdale-based agent. “He would work out multiple times throughout the day, and then he would show up at 9 o’clock at night and play basketball for another hour, which nobody likes their football clients to play basketball, but he’s just a competitor on every aspect of things. He’s just a tireless worker.”
Lemonier teams up with Carlos Rogers, Auburn’s 2004 Thorpe Award winner who was taken ninth overall in the 2005 Draft by the Washington Redskins.
The 49ers’ current starting defensive ends are Pro Bowler Justin Smith and Ray McDonald, while it’s Pro Bowler Aldon Smith and Ahmad Brooks lining up at outside linebacker.
“Anybody that can rush the passer the way that he can is going to be a good fit for anyone,” Metz said. “There’s 100 players that thought they were going to go in the first round. So sure, everyone wants to go that high. But at the end of the day, you’ve got to go out there and play.”
Metz indicated the 49ers were a bit of a surprise suitor. He said the Atlanta Falcons were “extremely interested” in Lemonier, while New England, Tampa Bay and the New York Giants were also in the mix, but the 49ers did attend Auburn’s Pro Day on March 5.
“I don’t think they were one of the leading candidates because they did a very good job of concealing it, so to speak,” Metz said. “They obviously do a very good job of scouting in San Francisco, so I don’t think 20 more minutes of doing pass-rush drills at Auburn really would’ve changed anything. They already knew he could play.”
The 49ers traded up five spots with Green Bay to nab Lemonier, shipping the Packers a 7th-round selection in return.
Lemonier, 21, was a five-star defensive end prospect out of Hialeah (Fla.) in the class of 2010 after appearing in the Under Armour High School All-American Game. His best year came in 2011, tallying 13.5 tackles for a loss, 15 passes defended and five forced fumbles – earning him an all-SEC first-team nod from the coaches.
Those figures sank to 5.5 TFLs, one pass defended and one forced fumble his junior season. Lemonier had two sacks each in nationally-televised games against Clemson and LSU, but just half a sack in the final eight games.
“They ask me basically what happened that year, and I told them coming into the season, we had a dark cloud over our heads with the shooting and players getting arrested,” Lemonier said at Auburn’s Pro Day. “We didn’t have the talent to match up with teams in the SEC. It was nothing (about) character – our motivation was still there. But it was just a lack of talent.”
Lemonier’s 2010 campaign netted him all-SEC freshman team honors along with the championship ring. He contributed five tackles for a loss and six deflections.
Durability has been a strength; Lemonier appeared in all 39 career games. He struggled with critical offsides penalties and neutral zone infractions during his junior year.
Previous picks by the 49ers in this year’s draft include LSU safety Eric Reid (18th), Florida State defensive end Tank Carradine (40th) and Rice tight end Vance McDonald (55th). San Francisco lost Super Bowl XLVII to the Baltimore Ravens 34-31.
The 88th pick in the 2012 NFL Draft was Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Nick Foles, who reportedly received a four-year contract in May 2012 with a signing bonus exceeding half a million dollars.