SANTA CLARA If NFL managers collaborated on a draft horror story, it would be titled, "Flaws: When Coaches Select!"
Sure, some coaches have a knack for talent evaluation. It might have been Bill Walsh's most unheralded strength.
"Bill had the magic touch," longtime 49ers executive John McVay said this week. "He could evaluate a player so quickly and so accurately it was spooky."
Walsh, however, was the exception.
Some of the biggest whiffs in recent 49ers draft history had a coach's fingerprints all over them.
The team picked Gio Carmazzi in the third round in 2000 partly because an assistant at the time vociferously banged the table for the Jesuit High School grad and insisted he would be the next great 49ers quarterback. (Spoiler: He wasn't.)
Safety Taylor Mays, a second-round pick in 2010, was a favorite of then-head coach Mike Singletary. A year later, the 49ers dealt the underwhelming Mays to Cincinnati for a seventh-round pick in 2013.
Last year the 49ers' only draft pick who didn't make the squad was sixth-round choice Ronald Johnson, a wide receiver who played for receivers coach John Morton at USC.
"There was an element of standing on the table for Ronald in the sense that the guy's all about football," coach Jim Harbaugh said on draft day of Morton's advocacy. "My ears and Trent's (Baalke) ears really perk up when you hear that."
Coaches certainly have an important role in the draft process.
General managers must work with them to figure out exactly the types of players they want. They have to know where a coach feels there are weaknesses or gaps on the roster. Most of all, they need to include coaches in the process so that they take ownership in the pick.
Jerry Sullivan, the team's former receivers coach, was extremely particular about his players. He thought very highly of some of the receivers the team added during his tenure, for example Joshua Morgan, a sixth-round pick in 2008. He didn't think others were very good, and perhaps because of that, it became a self-fulfilling prophecy.
By nature, coaches have strong personalities and ironclad opinions. Scouts and general managers are more analytical and introspective. But evaluating talent is what they do.
Allowing coaches to make a selection is like a pilot, who's spent thousands of hours training for his craft, letting a guy in business class step into the cockpit and land the plane.
In 2007, head coach Mike Nolan, defensive coordinator Greg Manusky and Singletary, who was then the linebackers coach, famously were unimpressed with the player Scot McCloughan had circled for their first-round pick, a linebacker from Ole Miss named Patrick Willis.
He was too small, too injury-prone and went around, instead of through, blockers. McCloughan had to force Willis, perhaps the 49ers' best pick in the past 15 years, down the coaches' throats.
What kind of cohesion does general manager Baalke and his scouts have with Harbaugh and his assistants? A very good one, by all accounts and observations.
Harbaugh was heavily involved in picking a quarterback, his specialty, last year. This year, while he has been a part of every pre-draft meeting in the past few weeks, Harbaugh wasn't seen at any college pro-day events and seems content to allow Baalke to run the show.
Harbaugh even acknowledged he might have a blind spot when it comes to evaluating his former Stanford players, many of whom are expected to go in the first round today and one of whom, tight end Coby Fleener, is a strong possibility for the 49ers at pick No. 30.
"I have so much history with them, from recruiting them to practice to games every day for four years," Harbaugh said in February. "Sometimes I don't know if I'm undervaluing them or overvaluing them."
A coach who admits he needs help with evaluation? Sounds like a keeper.
Mapping out the first round of the NFL Draft
Bee staff writer Matthew Barrows offers his predictions for tonight:
|1.||Colts||Andrew Luck||QB||Stanford||It figures that a team with a horseshoe emblem would draft a guy named Luck.|
|2.||Redskins||Robert Griffin III||QB||Baylor||A franchise that knows what it's doing should make the Heisman winner a mega-star. Too bad he's going to the Redskins.|
|3.||Vikings||Matt Kalil||OT||USC||Rebuilding Vikings need someone to protect quarterback Christian Ponder's blind side.|
|4.||Browns||Trent Richardson||RB||Alabama||A solid running game should take pressure off quarterback Colt McCoy or the guy who eventually replaces McCoy.|
|5.||Buccaneers||Morris Claiborne||CB||LSU||Happy birthday, Ronde Barber. He turned 72 earlier this month.|
|6.||Rams||Fletcher Cox||DT||Mississippi State||St. Louis considers WR Justin Blackmon here, but new, defensive-minded coach knows Cox is special.|
|7.||Jaguars||Justin Blackmon||WR||Oklahoma State||Blackmon goes to the place where wideouts are never heard from again Jacksonville, Fla.|
|8.||Dolphins||Ryan Tannehill||QB||Texas A&M||Signing David Garrard instead of Peyton Manning is like getting socks for Christmas when you really wanted an iPad 3.|
|9.||Panthers||Melvin Ingram||OLB||South Carolina||In Ingram, the Panthers find someone to help Charles Johnson get after the quarterback.|
|10.||Bills||Michael Floyd||WR||Notre Dame||Ryan Fitzpatrick gets another target to go with Stevie Johnson.|
|11.||Chiefs||Luke Kuechly||LB||Boston College||With Kuechly, Kansas City's linebacking corps could be the best in the AFC.|
|12.||Seahawks||Nick Perry||DE||USC||Perry compares to NFL defensive end Chris Clemons. So why not pair him with Clemons?|
|13.||Cardinals||Riley Reiff||OT||Iowa||David DeCastro might be the better player here, but offensive tackle is needed to protect Kevin Kolb's blind side.|
|14.||Cowboys||Mark Barron||S||Alabama||The Cowboys began shoring up their secondary in free agency with Brandon Carr. They finish rounding it out with Barron.|
|15.||Eagles||Michael Brockers||DT||LSU||Philadelphia gets the big-bodied Brockers to clog its porous run defense.|
|16.||Jets||Courtney Upshaw||OLB||Alabama||Crimson Tide defender adds an element of toughness to Jets' defense.|
|17.||Bengals||Stephon Gilmore||CB||South Carolina||He'll be expected to beat out Nate Clements for a starting job in Cincinnati.|
|18.||Chargers||David DeCastro||G||Stanford||Chargers could use help at guard and center. DeCastro can play guard and center. Can they clone him?|
|19.||Bears||Quinton Coples||DE||North Carolina||Coples slides to the Windy City where he'll be paired with another ex-UNC defensive lineman, Julius Peppers.|
|20.||Titans||Dontari Poe||DT||Memphis||It would be poetic if Poe landed with the Ravens, but he stays in-state instead.|
|21.||Bengals||Kendall Wright||WR||Baylor||Wright reportedly registered 18 percent body fat at pro day, which obviously means he's preparing to be picked by Minnesota.|
|22.||Browns||Rueben Randle||WR||LSU||Cleveland continues to address its offense with a smooth route runner.|
|23.||Lions||Jonathan Martin||OT||Stanford||Advice to Martin: Don't shake your new coach's hand too firmly on draft day.|
|24.||Steelers||Cordy Glenn||OT/G||Georgia||The Steelers could use help at right tackle and both guard spots. Take your pick, Cordy.|
|25.||Broncos||Jerel Worthy||DT||Michigan State||A worthy addition to a defense that already has Von Miller and Elvis Dumervil on the edges.|
|26.||Texans||Coby Fleener||TE||Stanford||Houston, which finished 18th in passing offense last year, lands the top tight end in the draft.|
|27.||Patriots||Dre Kirkpatrick||CB||Alabama||Character concerns could send this cornerback tumbling down Round 1.|
|28.||Packers||Shea McClellin||OLB||Boise State||If McClellin lets his blond hair grow, say, shoulder length, it will confuse the heck out of opposing offenses.|
|29.||Ravens||Dont'a Hightower||ILB||Alabama||Ray Lewis has begun to slow down. Of course, no one would dare say that to Lewis.|
|30.||49ers||Amini Silatolu||G||Midwestern State||Coaches relish what they'll be able to do with athletic Silatolu and Mike Iupati at guard.|
|31.||Patriots||Doug Martin||RB||Boise State||Boston area loves short guys named Doug. Pats could trade with Browns, who like Oklahoma State QB Brandon Weeden.|
|32.||Giants||Whitney Mercilus||DE||Illinois||Mercilus had a nation-high 16 sacks last year, and the Giants love to draft pass rushers.|