Ricky Jean-Francois at 244 to Close Out the Draft

With their last pick in the 2009 NFL Draft the 49ers selected DT Ricky Jean-Francois, out of LSU.

Regarded as one of the nation’s top prep defensive linemen during his days at Carol City High School, Jean-Francois never lived up to that billing during his time at LSU. While a member of the Tigers football team, he was suspended by the NCAA for 12 months, had academic problems and angered his head coach for unflattering comments made about Florida quarterback Tim Tebow before the teams met in 2008.

Jean-Francois was being counted on to replace All-American Glenn Dorsey as the leader of the defensive front wall in 2008, but that plan was sidetracked by the junior’s groin injury. “Nobody can replace Glenn Dorsey,” defensive end Tyson Jackson said before the 2008 season, “but a guy like Ricky Jean can come in and be the man.”

Jean-Francois, a junior from Miami, is an inch taller than Dorsey at 6-foot-3 and about 10 pounds lighter at 290. He may not be able to clog the middle and toss linemen around as Dorsey did, but he can run better and can also play defensive end. “He’s not as heavy,” LSU coach Les Miles said of Jean-Francois. “But I think he’s more angular. I think he may be more athletic, and he plays with great leverage. He’s really a very strong man, so I like both of them.”

Jean-Francois was rated the premier defensive line prospect in the state of Florida as a senior at Carol City High School. He was rated third in the country at his position by College Football News and selected All-American first-team by Prep Football Report and Riddell. The All-State first-team choice was a member of the Orlando Sentinel Top 100 for Florida and a member of the FSN South’s Countdown To Signing Day” All-South” first-team.

He was named the Dade County Male Athlete of the Year in both 2004 and 2005, becoming the only two-time winner of the award in its 49-year history. The skilled pass rusher closed out his career with a remarkable senior season, registering 93 tackles, 15 sacks and three interceptions. He also forced six fumbles and recovered three. He set the Florida state record for sacks in a game with 6.5. He also had a breakout junior season with 87 tackles, including 27 for losses, 10 sacks and eight forced fumbles.

Jean-Francois also excelled in track, competing in the shot put and discus. He won the state championships in the shot put and discus as both a junior and senior. He recorded the nation’s third-best toss in the shot put with a throw of 65-5 3/4 in 2005.

Jean-Francois enrolled at LSU in 2005 but was red-shirted, concentrating on improving his academics. He appeared in 12 games in 2006, earning freshman All-American first-team honors from The Sporting News. He played most of the year behind Jackson at left defensive end, but started his first college game vs. Auburn at left tackle, replacing an injured Dorsey. He finished his first season with the varsity by making 27 tackles (10 solos) that included three sacks and 5.5 stops for losses.

After the 2006 season, Jean-Francois joined the men’s track and field team. One of the Tigers’ top newcomers that season, he earned All-Southeastern Conference honors in the shot put at the SEC Indoor Championships by finishing in second place with a season-best heave of 60-1 1/4.

Primed for a breakout 2007 season, Jean-Francois was called into the coach’s office and informed he was being suspended from playing by the NCAA. He practiced with the team but was not allowed to travel. After the conclusion of the regular-season schedule, he was reinstated, starting vs. Tennessee in the Southeastern Conference title game before earning defensive MVP honors for his performance vs. Ohio State in the BCS Championship Game. In two games, he totaled nine tackles (5 solos), assisted on a sack and blocked a kick.

Jean-Francois started six of 11 games at right tackle in 2008. He produced 20 tackles (8 solos) with two sacks, three stops behind the line of scrimmage and blocked a kick. A groin strain forced him to miss the second half vs. Mississippi State and sit out the Florida and South Carolina contests.

Before the Florida clash, Jean-Francois apologized for what he described as an unfortunate use of diction when he spoke about the pressure the Tigers’ defense hoped to put on Tebow. He told the Orlando Sentinel that if LSU defenders had a chance to tackle Tebow on Saturday in Gainesville, they would try their best to “take him out of the game.”

“Every lineman wants to get a good hit on a Heisman Trophy winner,” Jean-Francois added. After those comments were published, he said they had been misinterpreted. “We never go into any football game trying to hurt a player from the other team,” the junior said in a written statement released by the team. “We have great respect for Tim as player and a competitor. By taking him out of the game, I meant as a defense we are going to try to make him ineffective. I’m sorry that my initial comments were interpreted another way.”

One of the top shot putters in the NCAA in 2008, Jean-Francois stepped into the circle at the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships for the first time in his collegiate career. He placed 18th at the national meet in Des Moines, Iowa, with a throw of 57 feet, 9 3/4 inches.

Positives: Tall, but can still use leverage to bull rush his man into the pocket. … Violent with his hands, able to rip off blocks inside to make plays on the ball. … Impressive in his ability to stand his man up and discard him to either side. … Rarely gets moved when facing a one-on-one block. … Moves fluidly down the line, able to eat up a wide running lane with his length. … Recognizes the screen. … Imposing figure when closing, will work toward the quarterback if he’s in sight. … Impacts passing lanes and can block kicks using his height and reach.

Negatives: A bit lean for some NFL defensive coordinators, but not considerably light. … High pad level allows double-team blocks to sweep him aside. … Inconsistent initial quickness off the snap and he guesses the snap count at times. … Could hustle and chase the ball more often. … Not quick enough to keep off a cut block, but recovers well. … Does not consistently play to his timed speed, lumbering in space and lacking elite stop-start quickness.

Compares To: JON BRADLEY, Detroit — Jean-Francois has exceptional playing strength, but has failed to live up to his lofty press clippings. He has had academic issues, off-field problems and an overall inconsistent performance on the field. He can easily shed blocks and power through the line, but lacks focus. He runs his mouth more than Warren Sapp, but with 56 tackles in 25 games, it is obvious he can’t back up his bold comments. Unless someone feels that they have patient veterans to mentor him, it is doubtful that he will live up to his own opinion of himself.

Injury Report
2008: Missed the second half vs. Mississippi State (9/27) and sat out the Florida (10/11) and South Carolina contests (10/18) with a right groin strain.

2009: Could not complete agility tests at the NFL Combine due to his right groin injury.

The Pundit of 49ersNews. I do what I can to supply the Niner fans with their fix.