Why Isn’t Safety Jaquiski Tartt Being Utilized in DC Jim O’Neil’s Defense?

Why isn’t San Francisco 49ers’ safety Jaquiski Tartt who stands at 6’1″ and 224 pounds, being utilized in DC Jim O’Neil’s Defense? Here at Niners Live, we had to ask the question that all fans want to know? Where’s Jaquiski Tartt? A.K.A the “Tartt Seeking Missile.”


Jaquiski Tartt was drafted out of Samford University with the second-round pick (46th overall) in the 2015 NFL Draft. Before we get into some scouting reports, breakdowns of his skill sets, attributes, and why he’s not being utilized, let’s recap some highlights on what he does well, shall we? Ok, let’s.


Next, the scouting reports? Via the team’s website

Bleacher Report’s NFL Draft lead writer Matt Miller called it Thursday on the 49ers Live Draft Show. Here’s Miller’s scouting report of Tartt and why he felt he’d be a great fit with the 49ers.

“He’s a big-hitter,” Miller said of the 6-foot-1, 221-pound safety. “He is aggressive, violent and versatile. He can play free safety or strong safety. I saw him do that at Samford. You might be thinking, “Oh well it’s a small school, doesn’t matter.” But he did it at the Senior Bowl too, playing that single-high safety look where he can come down in the box. The 49ers have two very good free safeties in Eric Reid and Jimmie Ward as kind of that nickel corner. At strong safety, Antoine Bethea had a great year last year but he’ll be 31 this year. I think this is a pick that fills future needs but Tartt can play right away.

“One of the good things about how aggressive and how versatile he is that you can put him at inside linebacker in nickel situations. You lose Patrick Willis who was such a good nickel linebacker, and I think Jaquiski Tartt can do that. He can step down in the box and fill out that 3-4 defense or the 4-3 look that they give in nickel situations and actually be a linebacker who can cover tight ends or running backs from that spot. His versatility is a big selling point for me.”

ESPN’s Todd McShay also weighed in on Tartt after the selection.

“He’s really good versus the run. He gets in the box and drops the hammer,” McShay said.

Tartt attracted 18 NFL teams to his Samford pro day in March. During his week at the Senior Bowl, NFL Media analyst Charles Davis called him, “an absolute missile.”


Well-built with impressive overall size. Gets downhill quickly from high safety to mix it up in run support. Takes good angles to ball carriers and is an aggressive tackler. Willing to play through pain and compete. Fierce competitor. Plays with confident, clear eyes to diagnose and handle his responsibilities. Attacks the ball at the point of catch to disrupt wide receiver and dislodge the pass. Via NFL.com.

What can he do?

Big Hitter: Tartt, standing at 6’1″ and 224 pounds, can pack a wallop. Tartt this past season talked about the big hit on Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones over at 49ers.com. He shoots and attacks the line of scrimmage violently and inflicts pain to running backs, wide receivers, and quarterbacks.

He plays with a natural physical style of play that his teammates feed off of. — Tartt brings back that intimidating cause to the 49ers defense and backfield.

Versatility: Tartt played both safety positions (free and strong) last season. He also played in the box, as a nickel middle linebacker, and in base defenses while displaying power and natural instincts to match up with different personal groupings. He can play the run and the pass, has great closing speed, and he’s a complete safety who is only going to get better with more experience.

Important to note: Tartt played in 15 games last year starting eight of those contest. He totaled 65 tackles, two sacks, one forced fumble, and one interception, per NFL.com.  Shall we fast forward to 2016 numbers? Tartt has accounted for 22 tackles and two passes defended in the eight games he’s appeared in while totaling up only 205 snaps, 119 coverage, 69 run defense and 17 pass rush. Via PFF.

Chip On His Shoulder: “I thought I was a first-round talent,” Tartt said, via Fann. “There were some guys that got drafted the year before, and I thought I was just as good as those guys. I ended up going in the second, but it’s all a blessing.”

Tartt, coming from a small school like Samford, always had a chip on his shoulder and wanted to prove he belonged in the NFL. It’s obvious when he plays he’s trying to show everyone who passed on him, doubted him or all the players chosen before him at his position that he’s just as good or, no doubt, better than them as well.

So why isn’t Tartt playing more snaps and a bigger role or a particular package in Jim O’Neil’s defense? Good question. Well, it’s not like he doesn’t fit O’Neil’s style of play, via the team’s website. Tartt also fits the style of play O’Neil wants and that’s “relentless,” according to Joe Fann of 49ers.com.

Allow me to leave you with this: 

Jim O’Neil relies heavily on his veteran safeties Eric Reid and Antoine Bethea, who Bethea has experience playing in this defense. O’Neil uses the two safeties as extended coaches on the field and as an extra pair of eyes, especially since he’s moved up in the booth as of late. That being said, the 49ers are missing a certain level of intensity, attitude, toughness, impactful hits, intimidation lurking within the secondary if you will, and physicality at the line of scrimmage.

O’Neil must release the “Tartt Seeking Missile” and at least allow him to wreak havoc in a specially designed package within the defense, such as — nickel backer that could have been incorporated into the Arizona Cardinals game when David Johnson was matched up against Nick Bellore on a crucial third down play that Johnson and Coach Bruce Arians of the Cardinals took full advantage of.

Bonus Niners Live Notes: When you’re a team that’s 1-8 and 0-4 on the road, you must start incorporating your younger talent now within your scheme to set the tone for the future. See, one of the many roles of coaches is also to develop young talent that still needs to be molded into something special and you have to create packages centered around their strengths of what they do well and allow them to play freely without over-coaching the player. Tartt’s playing weight has fluctuated since being drafted from 221lbs to 224lbs.  Remember: “Eyes wide open.”

All records, statistics, and accolades are courtesy of Pro-Football-Reference.com, Pro Football Focus,49ers.com, ESPN.com , NFL.com unless otherwise indicated.