Draft season is upon us as free agency quiets down and prospect watch goes into overdrive. But the reality for us is that we’re not that involved in the college side of things, though that doesn’t mean we’re not fans of the draft.
For me, though, that means reflecting back on drafts gone by to tell you which teams made the best picks and which ones the worst. So as I do every year, I’m grading every draft pick from 2009 through to 2011 on the PFF rating scale (-2 to +2), factoring in where they were drafted, injuries, and a host of other things.
Up first? Well we’re moving in draft order so it’s the San Francisco 49ers
+2.0: You’ve just found Tom Brady in the 6th round
NaVorro Bowman, LB (92nd overall pick in 2010): I was among those who questioned the 49ers letting Takeo Spikes leave in 2010 and put their trust in a linebacker who had 217 rookie snaps to his name. And I was among those who were wrong to question them with Bowman going on to become one of the top linebackers in the league. Not bad turning a late third-round pick into a linebacker who has picked up a +68.9 grade during his 3,852 career snaps.
+1.5: Getting much more than you bargained for!
+1.0: The scouts nailed it!
Mike Iupati, OG (17th overall pick in 2010): While Iupati is arguably coming off his worst year in the league, it doesn’t take away that before that he was extremely impressive, and that a bad year for him is still better than most. A truly punishing run blocker.
Aldon Smith, ER (7th overall pick in 2011): Would likely be higher but for his off the field problems that have hurt his ability to produce on Sundays. That’s a shame because Smith has proved one of the top pass rushers in the league since his rookie year when he was a sub package terror. Has ranked in the Top 5 every year when it comes to 3-4 outside linebackers rushing the passer.
Colin Kaepernick, QB (36th overall pick in 2011): Sure his third season was something of a disappointment, but he did recover slightly after a slow start. Finding a starting quality quarterback in the second round, and one that can lead you to a Super Bowl in his first season, is a good return.
Bruce Miller, FB (211th overall pick in 2011): For a fullback to get this grade he has to be something special with his lead blocking. Miller is that guy, turning his 1,473 snaps into an impressive +24.6 grade. For other teams this might not result in the same grade, but the 49ers use a fullback heavily which helps his cause.
+0.5: Never hurts to find a solid contributor
Michael Crabtree, WR (10th overall pick in 2009): Crabtree has the talent to earn a higher grade and was likely on his way to doing so until injury derailed his 2013 season. After two less than stellar years in the league, he got better and better culminating with a fine 2012.
Ricky Jean-Francois, DT (244th overall pick in 2009): Was always going to struggle for playing time with both Justin Smith and Ray McDonald in front of him, but still picked up 786 snaps that saw him earn a +10.6 grade and a big contract in Indianapolis. Excellent for a late seventh-round pick.
Anthony Davis, OT (11th overall pick in 2010): Took him a couple of years to get it but really broke out with a huge 2012 season where he was arguably the top right tackle in the league. Wasn’t quite as imposing in the run game a year later but has still solidified his spot as one of the premier right tackles in the league.
0.0: It could have been worse
Scott McKillop, LB (146th overall pick in 2009): Impressed on special teams as a rookie where he managed 11 tackles, would then miss all of his second season on injured reserve before being waived.
Nate Davis, QB (171st overall pick in 2009): Spent two years with the team but as a developmental prospect and never took the next step.
Curtis Taylor, S (219th overall pick in 2009): Ended his first year on injured reserve and was released in 2011. Would manage 10 snaps on defense and five special teams tackles.
Kyle Williams, WR (207th overall pick in 2010): Famed for his postseason return woes, Williams wasn’t much as a receiver but earned his crust on special teams.
Phillip Adams, CB (225th overall pick in 2010): Would spend a year with the team before being released where he would manage 77 snaps on defense and six special teams tackles.
Nate Byham, TE (183rd overall pick in 2010): Lasted two years with the team featuring on 164 snaps before missing his second season on injured reserve and being released.
Anthony Dixon, RB (174th overall pick in 2010): Versatile former sixth-rounder who was ticketed as a part of the running back group but has featured on just 346 snaps on offense over four years primarily as a fullback.
Chris Culliver, CB (80th overall pick in 2011): Looked good during his first two years on the field though let his beliefs and comments off the field overshadow that. Performance in Year 4 will likely determine if we can take a step up in category.
Kendall Hunter, RB (115th overall pick in 2011): Needs to play a little more if he’s going to be more than you’d expect out of a fourth-round running back. If he does, then he’s a surefire positive pick as a nice change of pace at the running back spot.
Daniel Kilgore, OG (163rd overall pick in 2011): Will get his chance to start in 2014 after serving as depth his first three years in the league, playing 170 snaps in garbage time or as an additional tight end.
Colin Jones, S (190th overall pick in 2011): Sixth-rounder lasted a year with the team where he would impress on special teams before being traded away.
Mike Person, OL (241st overall pick in 2011): Claimed off waivers in his rookie year, Person may very well have ended up on the practice squad.
Curtis Holcomb, CB (252nd overall pick in 2011): Missed rookie year after rupturing Achilles before being released.
-0.5: That pick was not put to good use
Bear Pascoe, TE (184th overall pick in 2009): Released before the start of his rookie year. Not what you expect from a sixth-rounder.
Ronald Johnson, WR (182nd overall pick in 2011): Impressed in camp but was cut his rookie year before landing on the Eagles’ practice squad.
-1.0: What a waste!
Glen Coffee, RB (74th overall pick in 2009): Had a terrible first year where he looked out of place in the league before leaving football for good. Turned his 232 career snaps into a -11.9 grade.
Taylor Mays, S (49th overall pick in 2010): Seen as something as a steal, Mays would only play 439 snaps before being traded to the Bengals in 2011.
-1.5: The scouts/ coaches failed, big time!
Not here …
-2.0: You just drafted the love child of JaMarcus Russell and Ryan Leaf!
Or here …
Here are the teams we’ve covered so far:
Follow Khaled on Twitter: @PFF_Khaled