49ers with Matt Barrows

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Past five NFL draft classes have shown success, failures for 49ers

05/05/2014 8:58 PM

05/21/2014 8:17 PM

When he was evaluating his team’s previous drafts, longtime NFL front-office executive Bill Polian went by one criterion.

“Did we get three or four players who contributed?” said Polian, now an ESPN analyst. “If you do that … you’ve had a very successful draft.”

With that in mind, here’s an analysis of the 49ers’ past five drafts, which have varied wildly in the number of quality players they have produced:

2009 draft

On the 49ers : WR Michael Crabtree

On another team: DL Ricky Jean Francois (Colts), S Curtis Taylor (Cardinals)

Out of the league: RB Glen Coffee, LB Scott McKillop, QB Nate Davis

Analysis: The 49ers made only seven selections, which is standard for the league but picayune for them. Their first pick (Crabtree) and final one (Jean Francois) turned out to be their best selections. Jean Francois, selected 244th overall in the seventh round, starts for the Colts. This draft class suffered with Coffee’s unexpected decision to stop playing football in 2010. Undrafted free-agent offensive lineman Alex Boone, a two-year starter, also must be included with this class. Grade: C+

2010 draft

On the 49ers: OT Anthony Davis, G Mike Iupati, LB NaVorro Bowman

On another team: S Taylor Mays (Bengals), WR Kyle Williams (Chiefs), TE Nate Byham (Falcons), RB Anthony Dixon (Bills), CB Phillip Adams (Seahawks)

Out of the league: None

Analysis: The 49ers not only found three starters in this draft, Iupati and Bowman each have been selected to at least one Pro Bowl. Dixon and Williams also have contributed, although some who remember the NFC Championship Game in 2012 might downgrade this draft because of Williams’ gaffes in that game. The biggest drawback was the second-round selection of Mays, who was traded to Cincinnati a year later for a seventh-round pick. Grade: A-

2011 draft

On the 49ers : OLB Aldon Smith, QB Colin Kaepernick, CB Chris Culliver, RB Kendall Hunter, C Daniel Kilgore, FB Bruce Miller

On another team: OT Mike Person (Rams)

Out of the league: WR Ronald Johnson, CB Curtis Holcomb

Analysis: The draft class lost a bit of its luster after Smith and Culliver were arrested this offseason. Smith is one of the most talented pass rushers in the league but stands to miss a chunk of the 2014 season because of run-ins with the law. Still, Kilgore is expected to take over at center this season, meaning six players from this class could have significant roles by the season’s end. That’s an astounding achievement. Grade: A-

2012 draft

On the 49ers: RB LaMichael James, G Joe Looney, LB Darius Fleming

On another team: WR A.J. Jenkins (Chiefs), S Trenton Robinson (Redskins), OLB Cam Johnson (Colts)

Out of the league: OL Jason Slowey

Analysis: If the 2011 draft is the one general manager Trent Baalke puts on his résumé, this is the one he sweeps under the rug. Just two years later, only three players remain on the 49ers’ roster: James, who badly wants to be traded and has stayed away from voluntary workouts; Fleming, who has suffered two ACL tears in two seasons; and Looney, who hardly has played, although he did show promise in a brief appearance last season. Grade: D-

2013 draft

On the 49ers: S Eric Reid, DE Tank Carradine, TE Vance McDonald, OLB Corey Lemonier, WR Quinton Patton, RB Marcus Lattimore, DL Quinton Dial, LB Nick Moody

On another team: QB B.J. Daniels (Seahawks), CB Marcus Cooper (Chiefs)

Out of the league: None

Analysis: This draft has the potential to be another blockbuster as Carradine, McDonald, Lattimore and Moody will at least compete for significant roles this season. Carradine is a candidate to replace Justin Smith someday, and Lattimore could take over for Frank Gore. Reid started 19 games at free safety. The fact Cooper was waived and then performed brilliantly at times with Kansas City might sully this class a bit. Had he remained, the 49ers’ need for a cornerback this year would not be as great. Grade: Incomplete

About This Blog

Matt Barrows was born in Blacksburg, Va., and attended the University of Virginia. He graduated in 1995, went to Northwestern for a journalism degree a year later, and got his first job at a South Carolina daily in 1997. He joined The Sacramento Bee as a Metro reporter in 1999 and started covering the San Francisco 49ers in 2003. His favorite player of all time is Darrell Green. Reach Barrows at mbarrows@sacbee.com.
Twitter: @mattbarrows

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