We’re in the final stretch on our Draft Grader series, with just three more installments left before it’s wrapped for a year. That means that next up are the San Francisco 49ers who stormed the NFC West (and most of the NFC) with a vicious defense and efficient offense.
How did the 49ers get here? Well, we’ll examine their draft classes between 2008 and 2010, giving every pick a grade between +2.0 and -2.0 (in 0.5 increments) that depends upon:
• Where they were drafted
• Their performance
• Their contribution (how many snaps their team got out of them)
• Other factors such as unforeseen injuries and conditions that could not have been accounted for
Let’s take a look at how the 49ers drafted.
+2.0: You’ve just found Tom Brady in the 6th round
There have been times where Alex Smith has looked like a sixth-rounder.
+1.5: Getting much more than you bargained for!
NaVorro Bowman, LB (91st overall pick in 2010): It was a bit surprising when the 49ers decided to let Takeo Spikes walk in free agency last year, but after seeing what Bowman could do it all made sense. Our top-ranked inside linebacker from 2011, the former third-rounder scored an incredible +34.2 grade for his work as a sophomore, establishing himself as one of the league’s best linebackers. Tremendous selection.
+1.0: The scouts nailed it!
Mike Iupati, G (17th overall pick in 2010): While some early round interior linemen step into the league and are handed false praise because of where they are drafted, Iupati has earned his. Over two years he’s picked up a +20.0 grade, and the 49ers will be very happy from one half of their 2010 offensive line investment.
+0.5: Never hurts to find a solid contributor
Josh Morgan, WR (174th overall pick in 2008): This former sixth-rounder has never quite delivered on his potential for the 49ers, but 1,764 yards is good value considering where he was drafted. Always offered something after the catch.
Ricky Jean-Francois, DT (244th overall pick in 2009): While the 49ers aren’t exactly the biggest rotators of defensive line personnel, Jean-Francois has looked like a valuable addition when he has got on the field. After playing just two snaps in 2009, he’s picked up 459 over the past two years with a +9.6 grade.
0.0: It could have been worse
Chilo Rachal, G (39th overall pick in 2008): Something of a polarizing player, Rachal tends to either look really bad, or really good. Take his 2010 for example. While he had some bad moments, on the whole he was a dominating guard who finished the year second in our run block rankings for guards. Then you look at this year and he looks like a different player, earning a benching. Not hard to see why a coaching staff would give up on this talented-but-frustrating player.
Reggie Smith, S (75th overall pick in 2008): Smith managed 854 snaps for the 49ers and hasn’t come out to badly in our gradings (-1.0 combined). You’d like to see more playing time from a former third round pick, but his saving grace is the 21 special teams tackles that prevent his being a negative grade.
Larry Grant, LB (214th overall pick in 2008): The former seventh round pick finally got on the field for 49ers in 2011 and looked decent enough (though not a patch on the man he was replacing, Patrick Willis). His journey to getting some starts in San Francisco, included a stop in St. Louis after being taken off the 49ers’ practice squad. Has a real chance at being a positive player for the 49ers because of the depth he provides combined with value on special teams.
Michael Crabtree, WR (10th overall pick in 2009): The star receiver from the 2009 class, Crabtree held out and failed to make much of an impact as a rookie. Still he became the 49ers’ top receiver in the two years that followed, but whether it be his own failings or those of who was throwing to him, hasn’t produced the kind of performances (consistently) you’d expect from a 10th overall pick.
Scott McKillop, LB (146th overall pick in 2009): Made a positive impact on special teams as a rookie (11 tackles), before missing his sophomore season on injured reserve. Was cut after the lockout.
Nate Davis, QB (171st overall pick in 2009): A project quarterback, was cut after a year and while he spent some time on the practice squad, never caught on.
Curtis Taylor, S (219th overall pick in 2009): Played 10 snaps on defense as a rookie, missed most of his sophomore season on injured reserve, and was cut a year later.
Anthony Dixon, RB (173rd overall pick in 2010): Hasn’t offered much as a runner or as a complement to Frank Gore, and could struggle to stay on the roster when the 2012 season rolls around.
Nate Byham, TE (182nd overall pick in 2010): Does offer some variety as a different type of tight end to both Vernon Davis and Delanie Walker, but after 2011 on injured reserve could struggle to stick on the roster.
Kyle Williams, WR (206th overall pick in 2010): People will just remember those fumbles, but he showed some real progress as a receiver and when he catches the ball showed glimpses of being a decent returner. Will be a shame if he doesn’t catch on anywhere.
Phillip Adam, CB (224th overall pick in 2010): Got on the field (76 snaps) as a rookie, but was deemed surplus to requirements soon after.
-0.5: That pick was not put to good use
Cody Wallace, C (107th overall pick in 2008): Played just three sophomore snaps, but the former fourth-rounder never caught on and was cut before the 2010 season.
Glen Coffee, RB (74th overall pick in 2009): While Coffee took a different path than football, it was still a wasted pick after he looked near useless as a rookie. 294 snaps as a rookie resulted in a -9.6 grade.
Bear Pascoe, TE (184th overall pick in 2009): Waived as a rookie and not deemed worth a spot on the practice squad. Caught on in New York, but did nothing for the 49ers.
Taylor Mays, S (49th overall pick in 2010): Wasn’t Mays great value in the second? A new coaching staff didn’t buy into him at all after Mays didn’t embarrass himself in 439 snaps as a rookie (-0.2). Sad that they only received a 2013 seventh round pick. That’s how badly they wanted rid of him.
-1.0: What a waste!
Anthony Davis, T (11th overall pick in 2010): Davis did progress in his second year there’s no denying that. While he was god-awful as a rookie (-28.1) he was merely pretty terrible in Year 2 (-17.0). There’s a lot of excuses made for him, but the simple facts are Davis continues to give up far too much pressure, and is inconsistent in the run game. Needs to speed up that development.
-1.5: The scouts/ coaches failed, big time!
Kentwan Balmer, DT (29th overall pick in 2008): Not often a team gives up on a first round pick after just 365 snaps, but that’s what happened with Balmer. He looked poor on those plays, earning a -8.2 grade and it was no real surprise when he was traded for a sixth round pick.
-2.0: You just drafted the love child of Jamarcus Russell and Ryan Leaf!
No Russell/ Leaf hybrids in this draft.
Let’s be perfectly honest; the 49ers haven’t exactly set the world alight with their recent drafts. Indeed you’d probably already say that the first draft of Trent Baalke (where they picked up big rookie year contributions from Aldon Smith, Kendall Hunter, and Bruce Miller, among others) already looks like surpassing anything that came before him. But it should be noted the 49ers have found talent, and the 2010 class left with them with a duo who should be perennial Pro-Bowlers at linebacker (Bowman) and guard (Iupati). You’d like a few more positive picks, mind.