I’m not one to often criticize a draft class, and I’m going to find the positive in every pick every team makes, because I want to see the pick as best I can in the way that they see it. But one thing that is growing tiring is listening to the media hype up this San Francisco 49ers-Seattle Seahawks rivalry and continue to gush all over Jim Harbaugh, Trent Baalke, and the 49ers’ organization which has drafted pretty well, but this year missed the boat for me.
I think the 49ers have the most overrated draft class in the league, and that’s not to say I think it was a bad group of players.
I actually like all the players the 49ers picked, and I don’t have a problem with the rounds they were picked in either. But you have to look at a couple of things here.
Number one, did San Francisco adequately address their top needs? Did San Francisco use their plethora of picks wisely? Did they load up in areas that could soon become weakness?
I think the 49ers swung and missed on this draft in those regards, and you’re free to disagree with that, but here’s my line of thinking.
The Niners used their first round pick on a versatile, aggressive safety in Jimmie Ward out of Northern Illinois, and they had obviously identified him as a player they liked prior to the draft process a lot because they certainly had ammunition to trade up and do whatever they wanted in the early stages of this draft. Let’s look at a quick recap:
1. Jimmie Ward, DB, Northern Illinois
2. Carlos Hyde, RB, Ohio State
3. Marcus Martin, C, USC
4. Chris Borland, LB, Wisconsin
5. Brandon Thomas, OL, Clemson
6. Bruce Ellington, WR, South Carolina
7. Dontae Johnson, DB, North Carolina State
8. Aaron Lynch, DL/LB, South Florida
9. Keith Reaser, CB, Florida Atlantic
10. Kenneth Acker, CB, SMU
11. Kaleb Ramsey, DL, Boston College
12. Trey Millard, FB, Oklahoma
This is a draft class you would expect to see from a team that just won maybe four or five games. The 49ers have done an incredible job, probably better than any team in the league the last few years, of stock-piling draft picks and building for the future to make a huge move whenever they please, or to stock up whenever they need.
The unfortunate thing is, the Niners have been doing this for a while, so they already have a phenomenal roster, one that some would call the best and possibly deepest in the NFL. So you look at all these picks and I first just scratch my head because what are the Niners thinking here? Are they really going to keep all 12 of these guys?
What about the players from previous drafts that have been stashed away, like Marcus Lattimore and LaMichael James? Are those guys on the chopping block after being last year’s ‘great value pick’?
This is the route the 49ers have chosen, so you look at the players they got and you’re thinking, ‘Wow, that’s a heck of a class right there.’ But the problem is, the 49ers didn’t need a 12 player class. They needed an impact player at cornerback, which they may or may not get in nickel situations from Jimmie Ward. In my opinion, they needed to upgrade their defensive line at nose tackle for sure and at DE opposite Justin Smith, who could also use a talented successor at his age.
The Niners used picks this year similar to the way they have in the past — they stock-piled guys who may or may not make the roster and got a couple of intriguing injured players that won’t take up a roster slot this season because they are recovering, and that is a luxury they could afford.
However, stashing rookies on IR isn’t going to win you a championship. Is Jimmie Ward the missing piece to a Super Bowl run? How many carries will Carlos Hyde see down the stretch this season?
What are the Niners doing spending even a late-round draft pick on Blaine Gabbert?
After losing Donte Whitner and Dashon Goldson the past two years, the 49ers have done a good job of using their top two picks in those respective years on replacements, that I’ll grant. I also like this roster as a whole and am NOT saying by any means are they not a Super Bowl contender this year.
But if any team could have jumped up into the top area of the draft and made a significant move to get a high-impact player, it should have been San Francisco.
Instead, they chose to fill out their roster with practice players and guys to stash in IR — AGAIN.
I love what Carlos Hyde brings to the table as a future featured back, but he’s going to be fighting for carries behind 49ers legend Frank Gore and incumbent Kendall Hunter.
Bruce Ellington has great potential as a slot and return man, and I thought he was the best slot prospect in the draft going in, but unless there’s an injury, he’s scarce going to see the field offensively playing behind Anquan Boldin, Michael Crabtree, Jon Baldwin, Stevie Johnson, and maybe even Quinton Patton.
I question a lot of these picks because it seems like a good portion of them won’t even make the roster. The Niners have one of the best teams in the league but I think in this year’s draft, they failed to add someone who can make a huge difference in year one as they pursue a Super Bowl THIS season, in Colin Kaepernick’s contract year.
And by the way, they don’t have a backup QB anymore that can yield a 2nd round pick in a trade. The Niners have placed their eggs in Kaepernick’s basket, not using a draft pick on the position among their 12 picks.
I just thought it was an approach to the draft I would not have taken if I was San Francisco, but we’ll see how it all plays out on the field.