SANTA CLARA Frank Gore can name without hesitation the five running backs picked before him in the 2005 draft.
Three went in the first round. Two more were taken in the second. Gore fell to the third round mainly because he tore the ACL in both knees at the University of Miami.
Gore was a risky pick at any point, but the 49ers made their gamble in the third, a wild-card round for the team over the last decade.
In the first and second rounds, teams expect to find future starters. In the third, the sure things are gone and the degree of difficulty increases.
There still are talented players, evaluators say, even players with first-round ability. But they've fallen because of injuries, character concerns or because the player projects to a different position than he played in college.
The trick for general managers is figuring out which players can overcome the issues that have caused them to slide.
"I always wanted to take the best player available in the third round and not try to force a need," said Charley Casserly, the former Redskins and Texans general manager who works for the NFL Network. "There's a tendency to force players up because you want to like them at a position you need."
Casserly said he recently looked at the last decade and found 75 percent of first-round picks and 50 percent of second-rounders were starters four years after they were drafted. In the third round, the number dropped to 30 percent.
The 49ers have done a little better than that.
Of the 11 players they've drafted in the last decade, four Gore, guard Adam Snyder, defensive end Ray McDonald and linebacker NaVorro Bowman were starters last season.
A fifth, 2011 choice Chris Culliver, who mostly played safety at South Carolina, was a key member of the team's nickel defense and played 41 percent of the defensive snaps last season at cornerback.
McDonald also slid in the draft because of a knee injury. Today, he and Justin Smith form arguably the best tandem of 3-4 defensive ends in the league.
Bowman dropped to the third round in 2010 because of concerns about his character, including a campus fight at Penn State that led to a suspension in 2008. Bowman led the 49ers in tackles last season and was named a first-team All-Pro.
The 49ers also have had notable misses in the third round, including wide receiver Derrick Hamilton, who never caught an NFL pass, and running back Glen Coffee, who walked away from the game before the 2010 season.
Unearthing a starter in the third round this year will be a tough task for general manager Trent Baalke. It's not just that he's picking at the end of every round; there simply aren't many openings on his roster.
"You're not going to get starters at every pick. That doesn't happen," Baalke said. "If you come out of the draft with 1 1/2 starters, on the average, people would consider that a solid draft. If you get two-plus starters, that's a good draft.
"If you get three or more starters out of a draft, I think if you go back in history, people would tell you that's a darn good draft. That doesn't happen very often, especially as your team gets better and better."
A DECADE OF THIRD-ROUND PICKS
2003 Andrew Williams, DE, Miami
Comment: Williams didn't even start at Miami, but the 49ers felt he could boost their pass rush. He did not.
2004 Derrick Hamilton, WR, Clemson
Comment: Big-bodied speedster was taken in the same draft as Rashaun Woods. He had no career receptions.
2005 Frank Gore, RB, Miami
Comment: Gore's surgically repaired knees scared off other teams but have not been an issue for the three-time Pro Bowler.
2005 Adam Snyder, OL, Oregon
Comment: The versatile Snyder started 13 games at right guard last season. He signed with the Cardinals last month.
2006 Brandon Williams, WR, Wisconsin
Comment: He sputtered as a return man and was criticized for being more interested in a rap career than his day job.
2007 Jason Hill, WR, Washington State
Comment: The San Francisco native showed flashes but never took off for the 49ers. He's with the Broncos, his third team.
2007 Ray McDonald, DE, Florida
Comment: A knee injury torpedoed his draft stock. He and Justin Smith are perhaps the best 3-4 DE duo in the league.
2008 Reggie Smith, S, Oklahoma
Comment: Is he a cornerback or a safety? Smith never emerged at either position and is now with the Panthers.
2009 Glen Coffee, RB, Alabama
Comment: Hard worker who surprised everyone by abruptly walking away from football before the 2010 season.
2010 NaVorro Bowman, LB, Penn State
Comment: Character concerns caused him to drop. Led the 49ers in tackles last season and was a first-team All-Pro.
2011 Chris Culliver, CB, South Carolina
Comment: A convert from safety to cornerback who was a key member of the 49ers' nickel defense last season.